Archive for February, 2012
Fifty years ago today, my husband Tony and I said farewell to family on the quay in Wellington, New Zealand, and walked up the gangplank of the ocean liner Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, drawn by that migratory urge young New Zealanders have to explore the other side of the world. This poem says a little about how it felt.
LEAVING NEW ZEALAND
I am Katherine Mansfield come again
on that slow ship out of Wellington.
Taste of bile in my mouth, I endure
the airless heat of the lower decks
rank with galley smells
and the deep-throated thump of engines.
The ice-slick of my daughter’s death
stumbling my speech,
I sit with parties playing Scrabble on the deck
where Indonesian stewards in white jackets
Evenings, I watch for that streak of light
as sun plunges into viscous sea.
Then sudden dark.
Familiar stars of my Antipodes
In their place, carved mahogany panels
that fill the walls of staterooms and stairways:
solemn eyes of strange beasts
peer from behind carved vines,
birds in extravagant plumage
perch on the edge of my dreams.