Time once was measured by the sun,
the shadows cast by rocks, the flight of birds
that marked the seasons changing.
Hours fell like feathers.

When the minister’s timepiece
effaced the natural calendar,
time was measured by attendance at the church;

the rhythms of old that made the people dance all day
replaced by the thump of his fist on the pulpit,
hammering poetry out of them – English
carried the burden of brimstone and penitence.

But all through the birding and plucking,
the spinning and weaving and making,
the old songs still trickled like laughter.

from Soundings: poems and drawings (Otago University Press, 2002), © Cilla McQueen 2002, used by permission of the author and the publishers. Recording from a private recording: Cilla McQeen reads from Fire-Penny and Soundings (2011).

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