He gives a little yelp of excitement when he sees her
walking quickly over the gravel track
across the boardwalk around the lagoon that’s called
Mimi Moto, the Little Pissing-hole.
He sees the hare spring up in the blackberry tangle,
how it leaps among the lupins and over
the tall grasses. He sees how the clouds drift,
the cloud-rack, cloud-burst, cloud-scape, cloudberry.
He’s in a cloud-castle, he’s in cloud-cuckoo-land.
He’s cloudy and cloudless, poor boy, and all
at the very same time so it must be love. And he whistles
to his dogs but they don’t know him anymore
and they take him for the hare, for he has seen her
naked and she’s set them onto him, his own dogs, poor boy.
LISTEN to ‘Actaeton’ by Bernadette Hall
Bernadette Hall lives in a renovated bach at Amberley Beach in North Canterbury. Poetry has taken her to Iowa, Ireland and Antarctica. The most recent of her ten books of poetry are The Lustre Jug (Victoria University Press, 2009) and Life & Customs (VUP, 2013). In 2015 she collaborated with the Christchurch multi-media artist, Robyn Webster, on a project called Matakaea: Shag Point. This was based on the plesiosaurus fossil found at Shag Point and was exhibited in the Ashburton Art Gallery. In 2015 Bernadette was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry.
Hall comments: 'I love reading this poem. To myself, inside my own head. And to an audience, when I’m acting up the drama as the story zigs and zags like the hare among the lupins. The first time I come to the words "poor boy", I’m almost laughing out loud at the naivete of that beautiful besotted boy. What a fool to give himself away like that. Grow up, I want to say, be careful. By the time I get to the repeat, "poor boy", I’m horrified and heart-broken, full of remorse and pity. They do that to you, the ancient Greeks, with those stories of theirs. Grow up, they say, grasp the nettle. How else are you to become fully human?’
Bernadette Hall and Rhian Gallagher reading at Otago University, February 14, 2013.
Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement page
Seven minutes with Bernadette Hall