Continuing Monday poetry sketches from Aotearoa / New Zealand

Ruatara Chapel

Beyond the window the tide is out
on long bay Okura,
as it must have been at Oihi
when the Ngā Puhi chief welcomed
the first sermon
to the land of the long white cloud.

Nicky is here today to read
words that name the root and reef of things
from an Iona prayer book.
Her two grandsons, who were promised
that Anglican evening prayer
is not very long,
are playing “Go Fish”
in the library that curves along
our space for worship.

The three candles are beeswax,
the sculpture of Francis
remembers brothers who once prayed here,

there is a text about casting our nets
on the other side, the deeper one,

we share silence,
listen to the boys win and lose,
pray to the one who knows our tides.

Ruatara, a Ngā Puhi chief from the Bay of Islands who assisted Samuel Marsden in establishing a Christian mission in New Zealand in 1814.

 

Te Henga   For Lynne and Erice

I inconvenience my friends to take me
on a pilgrimage to Bethell’s Beach,
Te Henga,
where my friend who has died
had one of her most joyous holidays.

I take a spoon and a bag
to collect
the sparkling black lava sand,
she loved so much,
eager to sense her one last time.

Dotterels are breeding,
and two pair have come
to the spinifex grass on the dunes
by the main path,
laying pale olive to brown eggs
with dark markings.
Maybe three chicks will survive.

Everyone leashes their dogs,
watches for weasels, rabbits, cats, hedgehogs.
The sign warns that adults feign injury
if humans are near the nest.

No wing-drooping stagger
so we must not be near
and there is only one person with a dog,
while the beach goes on forever

and it is empty.

She is not here.
An incoming tide chases me back,
erasing the words I write,
while I try on the coat of lonely.

Later I enlist help
in the search for the definition of henga —
the best we find is “sand.”

Nothing is here but sand,

but also the two friends willing to drive me,
and, unseen, something endangered
waiting to be born.

The unlikely work of growing prophets

The first person I meet
at St. John’s Theological College, Auckland,
Daniel, a student, says to me –
“named after the prophet.”

I ask, “Have you met many lions?”
and he laughs, “When I challenge them,
I discover they all wear dentures.”

I tour this three tikanga seminary,
Maori, Pakeha, Polynesian.

First is the cloister and classrooms,
where students learn
to care for human needs
and the integrity of creation,
to preach good news
a challenge to violence,
and transformation of all things unjust.

Then comes the historical center —
with both a Bishop Selwyn coat of arms
and the whakairo of Rota Waitoa,
and on to the chapel dark in kauri and totara,
one new stained glass window
splashing bright light
on the soft iconography of the past,
and that Anglican smell
of so many prayers for peace.

The Kinder Library,
is precious-full of Maori resources,
a quiet room has students
laptop deep in theology and praxis.

Finally in a building with ping pong tables,
they remember
God wants them to play.

“It is all beautiful,” I tell my guide
At that precise moment
my view is of a tended graveyard,
some wild bush,
and a future of clergy
who do not fear the world’s teeth.

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3 Responses to Continuing Monday poetry sketches from Aotearoa / New Zealand

  1. These are glorious sketches… both the words and pictures almost pop off the screen.

    On Mon, Oct 29, 2018 at 4:00 AM Gifts in Open Hands wrote:

    > Maren posted: ” Ruatara Chapel Beyond the window the tide is out on long > bay Okura, as it must have been at Oihi when the Ngā Puhi chief welcomed > the first sermon to the land of the long white cloud. Nicky is here today > to read words that name the root an” >

  2. These are astoundingly beautiful Maren. I so love the chapel at St Johns, but I so love how you weave all your impressions into one or two deep and well articulated meanings.

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