Seaside donkeys . . .

trudging home
to eat black dandelions
in a sooty yard 
behind the railway sheds
in ’49.

               After dark
we’d climb the fence
for a free ride
but they’d gallop off
to lap up stars
from a cracked tin bath
or lick the salt
from each others’ ears.

most of them,
past their prime,
but at thruppence a trot
along Scalby sands
they rarely wandered
far from our minds.

                 On grandma’s wall
one carried Christ
through the gates
of a blue Jerusalem
with the sun
beating down
as it rarely did
in Scarborough
even in late July.

               All our lives
we’ve remembered them,
nature’s stoics,
in that fouled-up yard
until the next time
holidays happened
or gods
rode into town to die.

For over fifty years Peter Bland’s poetry has been a consistently recognisable presence on the New Zealand literary scene. His exploration of belonging and the mysteries of time and place have been celebrated in an increasingly flexible voice. He now lives in Worthing, Sussex, but intends to return to New Zealand later in 2009.

Bland comments: ‘ “Seaside Donkeys” is, perhaps, a good example of the poet-returns-to-the-scene-of-his-childhood genre. I hadn’t been back to my Yorkshire birthplace for nearly 30 years, but on a trip from New Zealand I revisited my Grandmother’s terraced cottage where I’d lived just after the war. The donkeys—or what seemed like the same donkeys (impossible of course)—were still there, and their miraculous presence brought back a sudden rush of childhood memories.’

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Steele Roberts
New Zealand Book Council author profile