The computer is dead; long live the computer. 
In the meantime I write by hand. 

Across the road has appeared a For Sale sign 
in long grass beside the toetoe in the empty section. 
In the middle distance, wind-burned iron roofs chafed by macrocarpa, 
wooden power poles, manuka, the Challenge garage, 
cars on the bridge 
to the island harbour, containers, cranes, warehouses, 
fishing boats, ships. 

Stockpiled woodchips, tawny forests piled like salt. 
Moon-grey sheep-fold in a stony pasture. 
The far shore underlines blue mountains. 
Across the harbour against the sinuous ranges 
stands a white and grey Lego block, 
the new milk powder plant, fifteen minutes on the arc by road 
from here to there. When my eyes sweep the horizon 
they come across a Lego block where there was none. 

In the slow ground boulders grow. 
Silvered timbers fold the sheep. 
Cloud cliffs over Konini, five miles high from west to east. 
Agate pebble in my palm 
feels like rhyme to my warm skin. 
Five dimensions coiled inside, colour deepened by my tongue. 

I see Hone with clarity. 
The bronze sheen of his skin, 
tapering fingers, hand on my arm. 
He might be just up the road at Kaka Point. 

Alone within alone. 
Petrified whalebone. 

Tui twangs, triggers ripples. 
Under the wilding branches magnified sepia leaf-shadows 
play on viridian mosses, rusty iron, ferns, rotten logs. 
Pile dead branches and jump on them. 
In shade and shattered light dull logs crack, twigs snap. 
Floored with leaf-mould, fern, deep loam, this is the hut. 

In koromiko shade an iridescent diagram, 
fine landing strip, concentric trap, 
text between twigs, arachnid syntax, 
parlour game in a gossamer field 
of forty radii, seven anchors, three strong horizontals. 
Along these lines slide spectral parallactic gleams. 

I fell in the window. He was asleep in front of the potbelly. 
Deaf smile, shining-eyed surprise – 
I was afraid you might have burned your legs. 
After the funeral service you leaned down towards me out of a cloud; 
‘Kia mau!’ you shouted into my mind. 

You might be talking with Joanna. 
There she is in a red coat arriving on the ferry. 
I watch her painting watercolours. Colours bless the paper. 
‘A shape to part the space,’ she smiles, ‘Morandi.’ 
Quietly, she is gone. 

Dawn or dusk? I can’t quite hear what they are saying, 
I can’t get a handle on them, they pull away like water. 
Swirling kelp wind, cabbage trees green-faced wildcats. 
The house bangs like a cardboard box. 
It’s calm in here. 
Some shells empty, some shells full. 
My friends talking quietly, just out of ear-shot. 

Mist fills the harbour. 
Only the tip of the smelter chimney is showing, 
a black accidental on white. The long wharf juts hatched across nothing. 
Straight lines and clustered blocks, taupe, beige, aluminium, 
blend with the sand, sea, isabelline sky. 

I was astral travelling. 
Set in the middle knuckle of his hand 
a round World, deep blue and green, a jewel, 
a navigation device. 
He stretched his arm and we flew beyond the Last Scattering, 
beyond the primal molecules 
where Nothing warps at the approach of light. 

Soul wrapped in a mystery. 

Don’t worry, when the planet is completely wrecked

the seas will deepen for a time until they disappear in mist 
and we are left like Mars. 
The last of us might carve some mighty lines in Earth 
like Nazcar lines – or Boreray – scrape off the turf 
to leave a message on the hill, visible from Hirta – 
great navigation lines that point through space 
to join with other lines, 
our landing strips on some green other world. 

There is no malice in the computer, 
nor inclination towards good. 
In language ether particles form; 
word behaviours give thought tongue 
in codes and keys – 

Then there is an earthquake. 
The kitchen cupboards judder as if a tractor drove across the roof 
windows struggling panes/ what if/ disrupted/ the cupboards 
tumbled/ the piles 
collapsed/ the tidal wave impending/ giant broccoli/ without malice/ keys and codes in tongue 
Certainly uncaring. I need Bell tea, for Earl Grey is insipid. 
In the kitchen hot teabag juice through fingers, 
dropped in the sink a dry bud. 

Cosmic code winks on power lines after the billions of rain. 
Legs piston past on the white Staffy, Oscar. 

Bidibids, snags, pulled threads, 
flaws in the weave, points de repère. 
Can’t be sure of molecules making us up momently 
whose memory expands with time 
and over time the mind 
caught on a detail, thorn, spark, madeleine, opening 
a bubble 
via chance harmonics, 
pools of connection, shocks and ripples, 
traversing dimensions. 

A shape to part the space – 

The edges are shy and to be approached with caution 
lest they lose their inner concentration, become self-conscious 
in the Adam-and-Eve effect 
slip through a gap, perhaps, 
change phase – subject to object, 
innocence to experience, perhaps. 

So turn stone 
on the tongue. 

Cilla McQueen is a major New Zealand poet. In 2009 she was named New Zealand Poet Laureate and in 2010 received a Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. McQueen has published over ten volumes, won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry three times and received many international fellowships. She lives in Bluff.McQueen comments: ‘The Māori name of Bluff, a port in the south of the South Island, is Motupohue. Poets mentioned in “Ripples” are Joanna Paul (1945-2003) and Hone Tuwhare (1922-2008). The poem appears in The Radio Room (Otago University Press 2010), and was first published in the NZSA Bulletin of New Zealand Studies Vol 2.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council author page
Otago University Press author page
New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009-11