mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Sport 42: 2014

The Gardener

page 146

The Gardener

There are so many ways to write about dying.
Bees fly into rooms, souls slip out windows
there is silence and then the cleaner comes
to vacuum the hospital room
just as the last breath lets go.

Now details are missing and we don’t know
who the greenstone fob chain belonged to
which family came on what boat
and brought the monkey too
whose grandfather (great?) committed suicide
behind the butcher’s shop—

At first, only your body had left
but suddenly we are all weightless
with the things we can’t know.

In your last days, you reached up a ghost hand
to fit and turn the air.
(What are you holding? A piece of coal.)
Your father was a West Coast railways man.

He drove carriages of nuns out for picnics,
played the violin, and listened to a radio under his pillow.
As a child he was rescued on the way to a Welsh workhouse
and turned up in New Zealand in a tiny kilt
with a note safety-pinned to his jacket.

What did that note say?
Who brought him here?
The ground is soft around you
and I whisper my questions through the layers
but still you are not answering.

page 147 Not offering was more the problem.
I sat beside you at the hospital for months
and despite your overweight baggage—
surely too heavy for heaven—
you didn’t crack a suitcase.

What about the mining?
I went up to Denniston and said to the man
at the schoolhouse museum
All I know is that there was a horse called Nugget.
Ah Nugget he says, and finds a photo.
Later my mother tells me you were sole-charge teacher
for five years in that schoolhouse.

Mostly, I would like to know
what you thought about in the garden.
At a bookshop where I worked, somebody
was doing a thesis on the poet Ursula Bethell.

People, men especially, she said
sometimes transfer their affections to plants,
if they can’t express them to people.
Nurturing, tending, time—

Well, all those hours in the garden
and now, dust to dust: still a surprise.
Carrots on the coffin,
a short life summary.

The long times we spent sitting
quiet, but for the birds
long times spent sitting
looking at the view.

page 148 Aunt Tot strangling the chickens, artistic Aunt Madge,
Uncle Stan and Dougie gone to war,
illegitimate twins Roland and Rodney, Aunt Win the milliner,
Jesse caught by TB at 17, skeletal Uncle Pat—

Quiet, but for the birds
long times spent sitting
looking at the view so long
the hills came away in our hands.