Under the Pines

Their fine green packed in to make a dark
and this drew me on
round the lagoon. Paddocks open, swept with sunlight
and the pines
serious as a church.

I still hear their boughs
creaking like steps on stairs in depths of night.
Closer in the needles clarified
and the sound became a mast that might not hold.

To walk off the edge of the green world
and into their dust bowl,
that crypt-like half-shadowed temperature,
and once again
to stand there.

Resin scent rinsed like a sharp shower, tingled long after.
Not moving an inch, 
myself to myself become a mystery.

Rhian Gallagher’s first collection, Salt Water Creek, was published by Enitharmon Press (London) in 2003 and was short-listed for the Forward Prize for First Collection. Gallagher returned to New Zealand in 2005, having lived in London for eighteen years. She received a Canterbury Community Historian award in 2007. Feeling for Daylight: the Photographs of Jack Adamson was published by the South Canterbury Museum in 2010. In 2008 Gallagher received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Auckland University Press published her second collection of poetry, Shift, in 2011.

Gallagher comments: ‘This is childhood country. The cluster of pines stood tall on otherwise open ground. They were both beckoning and ominous.

‘I ranged freely as a child. The pines slowed me down and it is this slowing down to a stillness that created a remembrance in me. The interior of a church had a similar call to stillness and the atmosphere was kindred. Under the pines it was cool, dark, dusty, the air scented with weeps of sap. Pines swell and contract in the sun and sound out in the wind. The poem is re-imagining this interior space, listening out for what it has to say.

‘The stillness had energy; to tap this experience there is a sort of decoding going on in the poem. What the poem encounters is the sense of being one small being, a single being. The mystery the poem comes to is the very notion of an “I”.’

Poem source details >



Shift at Auckland University Press