Coming Round the Mountain: Waka mo te haerenga

Pureora—Chateau Tongariro—Turangi
July, 2011

People leave I know
for therapeutic purposes
and sometimes for no reason
    — Hone Tuwhare, ‘Where Shall I Wander'



pukeko carcase stripped
to bone hindquarters of
deer one dead glove

one inner-sprung mattress
one teabag one Speights bottle

Leaving Pureora they stopped beside two horses leaning over a fence. The white mare’s coat was shaggy and saturated from last night’s heavy rains, the same that left a pool of water on the floor of the cabin where they were staying. The rain had begun at nightfall as they walked among the totara and the kaka called to and fro. Ghostly and clownish echoes high above. After an initial moment of nerviness, these horses liked to have their noses stroked. The taste of a half apple each caused their eyes to flicker with pleasure. The stallion shows his beautiful upper teeth. Hard not to think he is proud of those pearly whites. The humans try to imitate his crazy wide mouth, neck strained and eyes closed: human horses gaping, thrusting, screwing up their muscles. Lucky the horse didn’t have a camera as the humans did. It would be pleasantly startling to think that the effort of empathy was always so comical. ‘Pure’ indicates a rite or ceremony. so ‘Pureora’ must mean something like ‘the passage to well-being.’



white mare misty rain
Guernica teeth and black
penis of bedraggled stallion

together munching apple
sweetness in their eyes



red paint cock and balls
Picasso-style eye in
each testicle smiles

and purple swastikas 
sprayed on clay bank

The warning sign about the presence of 1080 poison in the area is like a political propaganda poster. Bovine TB is a disease spread by this malevolent customer, the Australian possum, pictured with a toothy snarl beneath predatory eyes and unnaturally pink and glowing mouth, a monstrosity that on a dark and lonely night might infect your friendly milk-giving cow, represented here by a warm and curious muzzle reaching out of the frame to nuzzle your neck with its warm breath. Even harmless minding-their-own-business native ducks, who have tucked their beaks under their wings to sleep an innocent sleep, are not free from the mayhem. And it’s biodegradable. Someone has kicked the sign down so it lies in a pile on the muddy grass.



Karapiro Arapuni
Mangakino Whakamaru
Waipapa Ohakuri Atiamuri

Poet’s lucky work-bench 
positioned ‘by the big doors’



wearing pink pyjamas
like a lizard in a blizzard
singing sizzling songs

French café breakfast
in love with being free

Old songs and rhymes stay in mind like fragments that remain when you wake and cannot remember the whole dream. One seems to have no beginning but ended with this dialogue in verse: 
He said, ‘Come here!’
I said, ‘No fear.’
‘I’ll box your ears 
with a bottle of beer.’
That rhyme contained some of the fear of childhood, though no one ever boxed my ears. One was threatened with the ‘father of a hiding.’ Perhaps language is the mother of all inventions. Some songs were endless: ‘My eyes grow dim/ I cannot see/ I have not brought/ My specs with me . . . ‘ In that song everyone had a chance to sing about everyone else: ‘There was Murray, Murray/Eating lots of curry/ In the store . . . ‘ When she came riding her six white horses, I saw her magnificent, alone, somehow balanced on those six shining beasts. 



the mountain comes to you
sits outside your window
screeches like a parrot

Ka! Ka! Ka! Ka!
snow falls   you drive away



Chateau bedroom
credenza like a catafalque 
to supply your every need

three pre-Raphaelite mountain
nymphs watch o’er your sleep

She came to work in the Ruapehu Skotel that summer, the summer of revolution, after the summer of love. They had been in the same play the previous winter, she doing choreography, he playing some insignificant lord, and they found each other at the cast party. Summer in the mountains. She wrote back about walking in the tussock naked except for bikini bottoms and sunglasses, a little bird hopping in front of her, and the stars at night, the real ones, the shooting ones and the satellites, and how these were better than sitting in the pub and talking. Travelling down in the Limited Express, she had shown the young soldier in the next seat her book of modern poetry, but he had said that stuff couldn’t be poetry. In one of her letters she included a poem of Ezra Pound’s ( ‘just because I like it’): Let us leave this matter my songs/ and return to that which concerns us.’



that little bird goes before you
bikini bottoms and sunglasses
forty-three years ago

snow lies on the tussock
chandelier shines within 



a wild horse blocked
his roadster
on the Desert Road

Jim blew his horn like fury
horse leaped high and crushed his bonnet in

He drove down with his Dad to collect his Grandpa, who had slipped and fallen in the bath and could not travel by himself. Passing the line of pine trees that bordered the Waiouru Military Base, he felt a soft, sweet tickling sensation on his cheek and reached up to rub the itch not knowing it was a bee crawling on his skin. But the bee did not sting him. Perhaps it was winter. At his cousins’ place the big table was steaming with rows of porridge bowls in the morning. Perhaps it was the August holidays. Perhaps the bee was slow and dying. Or he may have touched it without fear, so the bee had not reacted defensively. There is a joke in the movie Key Largo: ‘Have you ever been stung by a dead bee?’ but no punch-line. The big Plymouth rolling into the small town under the mountain. The last line of a poem is sometimes thought of like a punch-line. Or an ear-boxing line.



porridge bowls steaming horse
in garden piles of washing
breathing high chair screaming

children jumping in between
poet coaxes out her rhyming



a country covered in
pine trees cows and goalposts
home kill and road kill

a simple tidy ugliness
stands between us

DYJ949 in the Chateau car-park wears a cap of snow. The wipers won’t go, back or front. Blizzard swirls in, whipping scarf away from chin. How to shift the snow? Start the engine. In the compartment in the door of the Mitsubishi discover last summer’s tube of SPF 30 sun-block. A splayed end to the tube with a sharp edge. The round cap a firm hand-grip. Perfect for the job. It scrapes the windscreen clean as if it were patented for the job. Multi-purpose, summer or winter, snow-scraper, sun-blocker. How to market? Could become part of the essential travellers’ kit. Never drive your waka on a long journey without one. The snow crumbles and falls in chunks under the onslaught. Wipers begin to swish. A do-it-yourself-land. Compound words, compound products. Every bit of wire is sacred. Don’t throw it away, it could come in handy.



He jumps she runs he turns 
she lies an eagle spread
wide wings of hawk above

and below
her blue jacket on the snow

The 1978 protests in the Pureora Forest were the best of do-it-yourself: climbing into the high branches of the totara and roping platforms up and living there until the logging stopped and the forest was saved for what it now is. In his protest song ‘Pureora,’ written at the time, Hirini Melbourne sang with empathy and solidarity for the protestors: ‘Taarere ana au i te aka o te rata/I te Waonui o Pureora, Aue!’ // ‘I’m swinging out on a rata vine/In the great Pureora Forest, Yaaaay!’ That protest naturalised into an accepted triumph, but if it were carried out now, in 2011, what chances that those protestors would be labelled terrorists? This has become the global strategy to deal with protest, as the documentary Operation 8 shows: steal protest’s legitimacy with language. Art is a wonderful thing, in its place. Protest, we’re all for it, in its place. But what if the white arrow of the 1996 Mitsubishi, at a bend in the road, where the land rises and twists, and the driver is blind to see what comes next, recognises that iconic sign put there to guide the feet on the pedals, as art itself?



sharp bend falling arrow
luminous waterfall



one opens notebook
one un-telescopes tripod
snow on Kaimanawas



art is like that wild hare
running running running
in the headlight beams

Murray Edmond is the author of twelve individual volumes of poetry, editor of three anthologies, and edits the online journal Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics. In 2012 he directed the new opera Len Lye The Opera with music by Eve de Castro-Robinson and libretto by Roger Horocks.

Edmond comments: ‘“Coming Round the Mountain” was first published in 2012 by Holloway Press and part of Three Travels, poems by Murray Edmond, illustrations by Joanna Forsberg.

‘In Japanese, “waka” is the word for a Japanese-style poem; in Māori “waka” is the word for a canoe, and in modern Maori the word for a car. “Waka mo te haerenga” therefore as well as meaning “car/canoe for the journey” is intended to have the ghost sense of “poems for the journey”.’

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