Janet Newman is from Horowhenua. She travelled to Dunedin to read her two highly commended poems at UBS for our International Poetry Awards evening on Thursday 29 November 2018. Read her two poems below.
Oh! Kee-o Kee-o
Last night, cutting potatoes,
butterflying chicken, a hawk
framed itself in my kitchen window,
its gentle rocking glide
interspersed with lazy wing-beats
so easy it was difficult to recall
that it was hunting for carrion
not flying freer than I felt
as I hovered over my chopping board
the way, next morning I was framed
in the windscreen,
easy behind the steering wheel
but hurrying to work,
another hawk––or perhaps the same hawk––
gripping road kill, slow to gain traction
in air without height, hefting the possum
inaudible above the clamour
of the engine and Radio New Zealand’s
9am bird which unbelievably,
I thought afterwards,
was the mating
of the swamp harrier,
a sound nothing like
the dumb thump
against the bumper.
Lines 4,5 and 23 are from http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/swamp-harrier
I was driving on Great South Road, Otahuhu,
that old garrison town, past the memorial
to Marmaduke Nixon, the colonial colonel whose
volunteer cavalry sacked Rangiaowhia in 1864.
He is buried there, far from the remains of those unnamed
villagers who burned in the whare. A Hobart stone obelisk
ascends the sky like the Phoenix Palm in my garden
where, beneath, karakas are multiplying.
I planted hinau, ngaio, koromiko
but the self-sown karakas are everywhere rising
through my mulch cover, my blood and bone.
The hoary palm conforms
to agapanthus borders, shelterbelts of pines,
in wind and calm drop fronds
with heavy spines, toxic thorns.
The chainsaw jags.
I could drill holes in its trunk,
inject 10mls glyphosate undiluted
or leave it:
The gangly karakas wend to light, pour green
over the weft of fronds greying in shade beneath
the colossal plinth. If they could speak
with their throng of leaves they might chime,
old man, lie down with the land
in your own rotten time.