Praying the Hours on the Okura Beach
There is a rhythm to it –
a pacific ocean heartbeat.
At morning prayer the sunrise
the volcano island,
like praise across dark water,
light echoed by the sound of small birds
from the woods,
tui most distinctive psalm of all.
So many collects
in dogs and their companions —
a bulldog reminds me
to intercede for global leaders,
a beagle for runaway youth,
the labrador greets me —
snout in my crotch —
and I pray for the dirty, smelly,
roll-in-it that is the world.
The dogs lift their legs
with the same joy
as chasing balls, shaking off saltwater
while their companions and I say,
Kia ora e hoa. Be fully alive, friend.
At midday the beach is busy
with parents and children,
strollers and towels,
soccer balls kicked with bare toes,
mounds of sand, elaborate
with the beauty of broken shells.
Circles are scratched
many names written in the sand,
some romantic, others just
“I was here.”
The tide is out
from the death of starfish,
I throw them back,
in case it is not too late
and pray for all things fragile –
God, we all need a re-growing of legs,
a remembering of names
in this time of great waves.
Evensong bursts out —
an Oxford University polyphony
but in seagulls.
I saw the sign about breeding season,
but could never preconceive
Just as quickly a battle rages
beak clamping beak –
a mature male and an adolescent
fighting over a fish,
A circle forms around them —
I think bets are placed.
Challenged and desperate
the older gull pulls free
with the silver prize and flies,
slower but smarter in maneuver.
He lands and gulps it down
then he and the grey-feathered youth,
perhaps his child
go back to riding the surf as it comes in,
fishing buddies in twilight.
I have watched
a whole Pentateuch tonight.
Saying “good-bye” to ordinary things
I tell a story at lunch
(in this place
where there is a story in everything)
about how my mother-in-law was always late.
It was very irritating at the time,
but what a joy it would be
to see her walk through the door now,
like the royalty she was.
Leaving Aotearoa, New Zealand,
it is the ordinary things
that bring the tears to my eyes –
as well as the holy ordinary things,
they way people say “good-bye”
to the graves of their parents
when they go away for a weekend,
the effort to become a bilingual people –
but the constant tikanga, protocol,
of at least giving names twice,
and the cleaning of shoes
for fear of bringing ancient trees
kauri die-back disease,
as well as the great places,
where spirit animates the flax, the waves,
my mountain, your river,
and how it is for the birds
that all the people
are as late arrivals like my mother-in-law.
At Rancho San Antonio
I roll down my compression socks
and take the last homeopathic jetlag remedy
pressed into my hand as a farewell.
I sleep and wake in California
taking two days before flying to Boston,
and we go to Rancho
where we pass antlered deer, wild turkey,
grass and leaves browning
in the bright autumn sun.
Up at the farm this early morning
we watch a cow be milked,
goats dance, sheep and chickens push
to be first at the food
and baby pigs wait at the fence
to be let into their mud bath.
As we stop for snacks
my two grandsons gather around me
and they say – tell us stories
about New Zealand.
I look around at the great golden trees
at the Rangi-nui and Papa-tū-ā-nuku
I see in this place and begin –
“A pukeko made me laugh …