Leaving the house

look at them looking at us
here at the bottom of the cliff
we didn’t see the first one pick up
the first box and move solemnly
to the door    we didn’t see
how the second and the third
shouldered their bundles
how the fourth hefted a suitcase
and followed them down the path
how the fifth lifted the first
yummy banana box with its
operatic load
how the sixth slung an accordion scrip
and the seventh a blare of posters
rolled up like a trump from Jericho
we didn’t realise they were all there
each one detailed to pick up
the pack up     we didn’t know
how far they had come
how far they would go
how long the line was becoming
as they followed the zigzag down
we didn’t know until
we heard the singing and saw
the first one on the last steps
and recognised the alpha wolf
the ants the birds and the soft-eyed cows
émigrés refugees nomads agrarians
strangers looking for a kindly light
trapezistas in violet tights and spangles
pilgrims with seashells in their hats
the hundred and forty companions of Tu
then we knew
and we watched them filing
one after another packing
the hundred and forty boxes
out of the house
down to the road
and in one version they load up
two trucks that are waiting there
and wave farewell to the precious artifacts
but in the other they dance
a saraband and make their adieux
they shoulder the boxes and begin
the northward trip on foot
leaving Tapu Te Ranga in a party
that heads overland for a seaside destination
in the Bay of Plenty
and one that’s bound for the shining reefs
of Tamaki Makau Rau
look at us looking at them
and realising with a joyous widening
of passages that have been sad too long
that three carry more than their share
and willingly because three others
the last to come out of the house
have handed over their burdens
and are walking arm in arm
out to where the sun is coming up
on a restart of the present millennium
we’re only too pleased to endorse
look at them looking at us now
can we make all of it happen?

Michele Leggott has published six books of poetry, most recently Milk and Honey (Auckland University Press, 2005; Salt Publishing, UK, 2006) and Journey to Portugal, with collages by Gretchen Albrecht (Holloway Press, 2007). Co-editor of Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–1975 (Auckland University Press, 2000) with Alan Brunton and Murray Edmond; editor of Young Knowledge: The Poems of Robin Hyde (Auckland University Press, 2003). Coordinator since 2001 of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) at the University of Auckland.

Leggott comments: ‘This poem is dedicated to the memory of Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton, and to their daughter Ruby who carries with her the legacy of poetry and theatre that was part of the house in Island Bay and moves now towards its future occasions.’

Poem source details >



Red Mole: A Chronology of Works
nzepc — New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: Alan Brunton
Auckland University Press author page
New Zealand Book Council writer file