the magpies come to the corner of the house
and talk all morning to the figure on the flag that hangs
on the orange wall     my fingers trace the sewn words
COME WIRELESS     a voice fills in the rest and flashes
from my good right eye     ALALU     give back the black and white
but it’s the orange I want     morning sunlight on the wall
the birds and their qwardle     the bells in the painting
of KARANGAHAPE ROAD in a shed on the side of the hill

nothing more joyous than a dog in water     except two dogs
paddling along beside us in the waist-deep water     so clear
the estuary at full tide     feet sinking through sandy crusts
WHOA     the dogs turn back and we drift with the current     WHOA
to where waves are coming over the bar     WH-OA     soft landing
against the side of a sand bank     as in the dream one moment
out of my depth one moment a toe on the bottom     I open my eyes
underwater     so clear     everything as it should be     kicking along

post MERIDIAN the wall of sound is cicadas     the shade sail
flaps one manta wing on the hot concrete and I’m off     barefoot
to find the London planes whose whitewashed trunks
will lead me     step by step     out to the point     an ALLÉE
a path to walk ALONE     counting and listening     marking off
each tree there and back     the dog running free with her nose in
RABBITS     sharp gravel springy kikuyu     ALONE and seeing
the same pathway in moonlight under the morepork’s loony call

Michele Leggott was the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2007–09 and received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2013. Her collections include Heartland (2014) and Mirabile Dictu (2009), both from Auckland University Press. She coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland, and recently co-edited Alan Brunton’s selected poems, Beyond the Ohlala Mountains (Titus Books, 2014), with Martin Edmond.

Leggott comments: 'Almost twenty-five years ago, Leigh and Susan Davis built a family place on the headland above Whale Bay in Northland. Here, in 2009, Leigh designed and flew the thirtieth and final flag of his magnum opus Station of Earth-bound Ghosts. And here, on an orange wall in the boatshed, hangs the first flag in that magnificent series of aerial poems. Five years after Leigh’s death the place on the headland still vibrates with tangible and intangible traces of his restless, enquiring mind. To walk into it is to engage all over again with possibility, counting and measuring light, time, steps, the hoist and the fly.

'One such possibility opened when Auckland artist and publisher Bronwyn Lloyd developed a textile response to my poem "matapouri" for the Art + Books symposium in Dunedin last year. Bronwyn’s response embodies in a different form the sewn words and flights of black and white caught from Leigh’s flags and present in my walk through the places on and around the headland.'

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Auckland University Press author page
Leigh Davis’s flags from Station of Earth-bound Ghosts
Leigh Davis at the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc)
Bronwyn Lloyd’s textile ‘matapouri’ at Mosehouse Studio