Finding the Ancestors


Mangonui, Northland

It starts with paspalum and a grave
stone tucked away in high grass.
The wood has weathered and grows
colour in spreading lichen. The date
is an indentation three fingers wide. It was hard
country and only the shape is there
rounded as hills or the church window
blank in all that blue glare of sky
just down the hill round the corner
in the lee of the tree that holds its own
stories. Only the freesias give something
away. A woman perhaps writing a tale
in the planting of bulbs. The tree nods
the wind whistles a tune you think
you’ve heard before, but across the bay
it’s whipped all trace of landfall
away. There are few details.

from Talking Pictures: Selected Poems (HeadworX, 2000), © Riemke Ensing 2000, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004

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