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Kowhai Gold

[Una Currie]

In the Manner of Li Po
I have seen
The naked, knotted limbs of trees inked in against
the sky,
And suddenly they held the whole
Unquiet restless soul
Of sunset. Between the thin black lips of twigs
colour ran like fire.
And two still boughs held all the sky, held all the
page 58 And I have seen
Within the slow pools of your eyes the goblin moon,
the gleaming moon,
Softly swinging on those shadowy mirroring waters.

And I know that as one tree can hold the sunset,
And your eyes the quietness of the moon,
So can my one heart
Hold the miracles of the universe.

From a Train
Suddenly, after wastes of wild
Grey and sullen brown,
We came upon a quiet field
Where the sheep lay down.
Snow-white sheep on a wet, dark field,
With a still tree beyond,
And the fat bodies of four ducks
Ruffling a golden pond.

All suddenly, out of the hushed
Thick darkness of night,
A carillon of bells we heard
In a gleaming flight,
Shaking their rhythm down the sky
In a bright cloud of sound,
Like the soft beat of breasting doves
Over the muffled ground.

And suddenly all else was gone
Save Beauty aching on and on.

page 59

The Mother
He dragged beside her in the crowd
With hanging mouth and idiot eyes,
Dead to the wind's soft clouded gold
And the birds pointing down the skies.

Dowdy and stooped, with work-worn hands,
She held him gently, close the while:
Unknown, unnoticed, though there stood
A very Christ within her smile.

Darkness eddying, swirling round,
And in that profound,
Soft surging tide even the light of my match drowned.

Only the silence thick with sound,
And darkness eddying, swirling round.

Suddenly, dancingly, your voice came,
A secret, lovely flame.
There was no night: for the night was silver with your name…
As in old days, the same,
Suddenly, dancingly, your voice came…

Came and was gone, and the thick tides of darkness beat me back,
And your voice was the voice of the wind, and my heart was black.

page 60

Trees, they're funny things—
They hurt somehow;
I've seen the whole sky caught
In one black bough.

Pines I've loved best.
You hear the sea,
All swelling soft and hoarse
In just one tree.

They stand all black and tall,
With stars between
Their strong dark boughs some nights.
I know, I've seen.

I've watched trees drag and droop;
Seems they weren't meant
For towns—all crying 'gainst
The sky, and bent.

That hurt a bit, but pines—
They stir me deep,
That soft, lost roar of theirs;
They never sleep.

They hurt somehow, do trees.
I've loved them all,
But pines, they twist my heart
With their wild call.

page 61

Any Lover
He talked, the learned man, for hours,
Of this growth-travailled world of ours,
Of whirling earths in darkness flung—
The cataclysmic bells Time's rung.

Most glibly, on his certain tongue,
Dim centuries like beads he strung,
And as he talked he carefully
Dissected every mystery.

Until at last he'd pigeonholed
Each blinding phrase that earth has told,
Most neatly cataloguing each
In dry, staccato human speech.

And then he made complacent pause
Amidst preoccupied applause.…
I turned my head, and like a book
I held the ages in a look.