James Ackhurst

Two Double Sonnets for Catherine Inspired by our Recent Trip to Various Sites Around Golden Bay with a Local Pakeha Guide

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
partly because, I'd been there before;

after a while, it feels like the only
thing you get from it is loss:

every lover is less a love,
just like every location is less of a home.

At least, that's how I sometimes see it;
at other times, it feels as if

each place has different friends for me
and every move brings a different home.

It's all about how you take it, Catherine;
and I'm not sure how you get that right.

I could tell you how it's helped a lot
to remember what my teacher said

when he said you can think of coming back
to the breath like a kind of coming home;

I could go on about Odysseus,
whose homecoming was only complete

after decades of wars and wanderings -
not to mention loss of friends, and loves.

But I think the only sound advice
is to keep an open mind, and stay

alive to moments such as these,
driving up a winding road

10 000 miles away from home,
in a place I've never been before

and on the stereo, the cheesy
music singing Welcome Home.

From Te Waikoropupu to Harwood Hole

We used to swim here as a family,
but now you can't even touch the water.

The Maori just declared it tapu -
that seems to be a recent myth.

We drove up deep into the hills,
and walked into a shady wood

where we were all surprised to see
a cluster of trees in a shadow of snow.

I'd taken it for fallen light
but I guess that that's happens when

you leave a shadow overnight
to develop for hours in total darkness.

And soon we were clambering, picking our way
between roots and rocks; then the rocks got bigger

and suddenly we were at the hole.
Promise me you'll grab this tree,

you called, and I made sure I did;
I held it tight, and gazed down once.

At a safer distance, we tossed in ice
and counted the seconds before it crashed;

then gingerly, we took our pictures;
though none of them captured the awesome drop.

I'm not afraid to admit that hole
scared the bejesus out of me;

in spite of which, I'm glad they haven't
put up any barriers,

since, myths or no myths, I've good reason
to be convinced that place is tapu.

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