Unheeding any language . . .

Unheeding any language, past thought perhaps,
More powerful than any love, the land moves.
The mountains bald, an ice shawl of their caps
Translating in the trillion bed-rock grooves
Into god-sized rivers, working wide the gaps.

And we, like bits of lint, pass through all this
(Almost without a thought for what will come).
Sometimes the plates will shiver in their kiss,
And thousands scream, but generally we ‘um’
And get on with our work. Such agelessness,

Or something like that, yes, they dream it so,
Such weight of time as drags the crust beyond
These anaerobic depths, these seas that grow
Unceasingly—whole food chains that abscond
With the high tide—invites no man to know

What part he plays in this unyielding scheme.
The planes glide past, inside them silent apes;
Each peers across the vast lands as in dream,
Bemused by death. Inconscionably they traipse,
From plot to plot, and pay for their esteem.

By credit card of course, or traveller’s cheek—
They understand the joke, though rarely such
As might set off a trembling through their teak,
Or trouble them with nightsweats overmuch.
Their horoscope was true: they spurn mystique.

And yet there are those too who do not speak.
The stones themselves breathe age; no metaphor
Would entertain the nothing which they seek.
These press their mouths against a bolted door,
Or drift the public landmarks, week by week.

Richard Reeve (b. 1976) is a Warrington-based poet. He has published three books of poetry through Auckland University Press: Dialectic of Mud (2001), The Life and the Dark (2004) and In Continents (2008), and one, The Among, through Maungatua Press in 2008. Until February 2009 he worked as editor for Otago University Press, but has recently returned to university to study Law. He has also had poems included in several previous Best New Zealand Poems collections.

Reeve comments: ‘I wrote the titleless poem that forms the proem to my recent collection In Continents while in a plane over the American desert en route to England from New Zealand. As a proem, it introduces some of the collection’s themes.

The great age of the earth, misdirected or simplistic efforts at deriving human value from its abyssal character, and the questionable role of poetry in apprehending this namelessness, are recurrent issues in my four collections. Reversing historian Karen Armstrong’s formulation on religion, poetry for me is as much a belief as a practice, even if the “eschatology” of modern poetry—the study of final things in our collective destiny as mortals in an immortal world—is less defined than in the axial faiths. This lack of definition reflects the inertia of our secular epoch which, however necessary as an antidote to the false consciousness of religion, remains constrained by its own technological metaphysics.’

Poem source details >



Auckland University Press author profile
New Zealand Book Council writer file
nzepc—New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: 1946
Best New Zealand Poems 20012004 and 2007