Title: Opoutere

Author: Bill Manhire

In: Sport 32: Summer 2004

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, December 2004

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 32: Summer 2004

Bill Manhire — Opoutere

page 7

Bill Manhire


in memory of Michael King
This is the place of posts.
A man in a boat is checking his lines.

He is out towards the rock
at the mouth of the river,
clear sky above the ocean,
while behind him the estuary is filling
with its acres of shine.

Once there were a thousand logs on the water,
jostling for space across Wharekawa,
waiting their turn to be rafted out
to the ships which waited offshore…

January nineteen-ninety-something,
Michael himself pouring the drinks
as he showed us the photographs; and then
he and Peter Walls sat on the verandah,

the balcony, the deck, of the double house
with its view down over the water,
swapping tales about masters at Silverstream,
Father X and Father Y, and Spiro Zavos,

page 8

history and music talking together,
the vast entertainment of learning…

And do you remember…

So that again I stop on the footbridge
(there are swallows)
just to see that everyone's here

(and we are), watching water slide over mud,
a boy suddenly lifting an arm
to see if the crabs still run to their smudges

and they do

and always at last everything follows,
the walk through pines to the beach,
the soft, suspended, hesitating air

and then the great lines of blue-and-white thunder

and the dotterel's small whistle,
always vanishing, always leading away
from the wee scrape of sand

where the eggs lay,
and still keeping back for another day
that desperate broken wing display

page 9

though we at any rate would be making no trouble,
walking on towards Ohui,
where we met an American backpacker who pointed up

at the high, heavy, shuffle of gulls
and said, ‘Hey, take care up ahead,
this is hawk country.’

A line on the page follows the skyline,
like the last light wandering
inland from peak to peak

until late at night there are stars
and there we are
lying flat on our backs

up in the bush between harbour and pa
to see if the universe
is still connecting its dots

and it is

for all of the news was up there,
satellites bright in the dark
with their chatter of business and love,

and star after shooting star
(the beautiful wipe-out of worlds!)
whole civilisations, the failings and fallings,

in the flickering, steady, and once again flickering
always migrating light…

page 10

He has one kahawai, and two trevally.
Oystercatchers patrol the tideline.

A tui whirrs from pohutukawa to pine.

Enough to be going on with really.

Now the bad news is here.
The good news is nowhere.

Everything consoles, and nothing.

Everything goes under the earth,
the old timber, and the new.

What is memory but all of us listening?

—without being precisely sure
to whom one owes gratitude

what we want in the end is understanding.

And now I suppose he cuts the motor.
Let the tide do the work!

And now there is only the sound of water…

page 11

Here in the place of posts
I think I can just make him out

a man in a boat
rowing across the last half-mile of twilight