Season of farmland reduced to its knees, blistered hills
genuflecting to the clear. In almost everything
drought has disclosed itself to the wind-hushed mind;
the udders are cracked, a gate bobs like a fallen
soldier in the stanched centre of a paddock. There is a nothing
here that forgives, ground into the habitual seepage
of something’s split head: gulls pick the otherwise
ignored mammal flapping on the road, a dead insect’s
slashed wings sway over the tar like an orchestra.
And yet there can be no forgiveness. It is always but never
now where barbed wire fences are balked by the sun,
the sky hissing through popped staples, ‘almost
but never’. And then at night, under dried-out stars,
rain features in a pantomime: swallowing the earth.
Richard Reeve was born in Central Otago and now lives in Dunedin. His first collection, Dialectic of Mud, was published by Auckland Unviersity Press in 2001. With Nick Ascroft, he edits the literary magazine Glottis.
“I spent the first years of my life living not too far from Ranfurly, a small sheep-farming town, bordered by dry mountains, on the northern end of Central Otago’s Maniototo plain. As part of a major rain shadow that lies east of the Southern Alps, the brown, sometimes hallucinatory tussock land which surrounds it is exposed to seasonal extremes of heat and cold. To this end, the landscape represented in the poem is both literal and figurative. If the poem hinges on a failed supplication to the elements for mercy, it also voices praise for a world which is bigger than we are.”