Sailing the world
It was high time for him, at his great age,
to take stock of how things were
in the world and where he had got to,
and the course to take from here on in.
So he decided to shift his chair as he
thought about this and that, in the usual
way of it, and in only a moment or two
he heard the woodwork creak below him.
It became the heavy strain of a ship at sea —
the way the timbers rub like an old cat
against the waves and the hull begins
to scratch itself and wheeze and groan —
and he sailed on with no thought of where
he was going, though for a long while
he stood with one arm raised to the skies,
because experience had taught him
that storms, or the wrath of the gods,
or whatever worse thing it was,
usually came hurtling down on him
from that direction. It was no more
than a frail gesture, yet anyone looking
at him might well have guessed he was
pointing at the death of the sun, shadows
crossing the face of the waters, or the moon
holding its breath at the edge of the world.
A pity they missed his smile as at last
he settled back into the dark anchorage
of his chair just across the room.
Kevin Ireland was born in 1933, in Mt Albert, Auckland, and now lives just across the harbour in Devonport. Among his many and varied prose publications are three novels (Blowing My Top, The Man Who Never Lived and The Craymore Affair), a collection of short stories (Sleeping with the Angels), an opera libretto (The Snow Queen, published by the BBC and translated into French) and a book on the New Zealand novel (The New Zealand Collection).
His life has been described in two memoirs, Under the Bridge & Over the Moon (1998) and Backwards to Forwards (2002), the first of which won the Montana prize for History and Biography. He has also received a National Book Award for Poetry, a Scholarship in Letters, the 1990 Commemoration Medal, and an OBE for “services to literature”. In 2000 he was made a Doctor of Literature by Massey University. He has been awarded fellowships by Canterbury University, the Sargeson Trust and Auckland University, and he is a former National President of PEN, and is a member, and former Vice-president, of the Sargeson Trust. He is also a Vice-president of the North Shore Cricket Club, as well as Patron of its associated Torpedo Bay Indoor Bowling Club.
He has regularly published poems in magazines, anthologies and translations into many languages, and over the past 40 years he has produced 15 books of poems, the last four of which have been published by Hazard Press: Face to Face, Educating the Body, A Letter from Amsterdam, Orchids Hummingbirds and Other Poems, A Grammar of Dreams, Literary Cartoons, The Dangers of Art, Practice Night in the Drill Hall, The Year of the Comet, Selected Poems, Tiberius at the Beehive, Skinning a Fish, Anzac Day: Selected Poems, Fourteen Reasons for Writing and Walking the Land.
Ireland comments: ‘ “Sailing the world” is an enclosed and domestic poem that considers a lifetime and travels a world.’