The lake, the bloke and the bike
Hauparu Bay, Lake Rotoiti
Here I am, an old woman, sitting alone
on an outside chair in Maoriland.
There is a faint banging in the bush
as if a human being is hammering in
a small post.
The old boat shed still stands, long
and picturesque under the hanging trees.
There is no reason to be here. Ancestors
must have carried us—assorted seeds
in a small bag—to hold them on course
during the voyage.
No wonder I love the lake.
So many little lines on it
and they’re all moving.
The bloke who cannot live
without noise is revving up the motor
on his hydroplaning boat. The light
on the red upturned dinghy is
blinding and beautiful. From the shore
the small lines keep coming
towards me on the diagonal
making honeycomb shapes on the sand.
His boat is the loudest I’ve ever heard.
It is tested in and out of the water.
It is tested for hours.
Through the honeycomb a small swell,
parallel to the shore, rises and falls
telling another, legendary, story.
for Max (1935–2013)
The lake is a theatre
of human transformation.
The willow hangs over the water
but is not weeping and the cloud
—at first a yippee hand—
has found its true nature: flower.
Nothing seems to be missing. All
is not lost. The kayaks are lying
face down in the shade
like neat coffins. No need to fret
since kids are coming over the stream
towards us, picking hydrangeas
for the weekend hui. All is well.
The lake itself is a well. Wish,
with every gesture that you can,
for its well-being
in the comedy and tragedy
of water-borne life.
Off and on something is tapping
like a swift
talented hand on a drum.
Perhaps it is a blade of flax.
The wind spells disorder
but the flax
has its measure. Rhythm itself
might be the one thing
The wind is as edgy
as a depleted earth. I shift
my chair from place to place
at the unsheltered end
of the unsheltered bay.
The bay. Curved as neatly as if
by a pencil in a compass.
All the jetties unperturbed,
the lake flattened, swept, lit;
light doing what light does.
His younger mates, and the whole bay,
are the audience for his noise.
I’ve had a word with him.
We all have our own interests,
he said. I agreed. And his mates nodded.
They were sitting in the boat.
But some are noisier than others, I said,
thinking of poetry, how quiet it can be.
Then he told the story of the cyclist
who—on their way down from Auckland—
had hogged the middle of the road as if
he owned it. My God. His mates nodded.
I thought of my quiet son
on his quiet road bike.
Keep your eye and mind
on the lake. The little puffs of cloud
over the far side are like the breaths
of a small girl on an icy morning.
But it is summer. No wind.
The bloke is hurtling around
on a drive-on mower.
The tree fern on the lawn
is on the lean
with a sturdy rata on its trunk.
It is leaning into the absent wind
like a cyclist into a gale. It is leaning
towards the jetty, towards the lake
and towards the headland.
I’m heading that way too.
Meanwhile—the lake has the calm
of a dark, enlightened mind:
nothing appears to be broken,
everything settled is fragile,
nothing seems likely to break.
Dinah Hawken was born in Hawera, Taranaki, in 1943 and after many years of living in Wellington, with seven years in New York, now lives again on the west coast of New Zealand at Paekakariki. She has worked as a social worker, student counsellor and teacher of creative writing. Her first book of poetry, It Has No Sound and is Blue, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for ‘Best First Time Published Poet’ and three of her subsequent collections have been finalists in the New Zealand Book Awards. Her seventh book, Ocean and Stone, was published by Victoria University Press in September 2015. Dinah was the winner of the biennial Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand in 2007.
Hawken comments: ‘“The lake, the bloke and the bike” is a small sequence of poems written in Hauparu Bay, Lake Rotoiti. Place strongly affects my writing and this particular place, in the thermal region of New Zealand and on the edge of a beautiful lake, has had a powerful influence on me. Many of my poems have been written there and in fact my first serious poem bubbled up in the middle of one night thirty five years ago while staying by the lake.’