the green inside

there is a place that lives inside me
a space between trees
low hanging branches
overgrown grass
glimpses of sky
cool, damp and quiet
the sound of a stream nearby

the grass is deep, vital green
and when I lie down
it surrounds me
and I see nothing
but clouds shifting
liquid jade between

I am invisible to all
except birds who watch
from high behind the leaves
beetles climb the grass stems
a bee lands on my hand

surrounded on three sides by trees
the fourth side opening into the light
I remember the sadness of leaving

walking out into the sun
the loss of place

revisiting is bittersweet

© Claire Griffin 2016

the cloak of shadows

a cloak is suspended
from a high ceiling
just inside the entrance
of a dimly-lit room

I cross the threshold
this cloak of chains
is dark and hard
and I swear the air turns cold

I read a date – 1860
the past confronts me
the pain is palpable
and I am silenced

shadows move between the links
invisible hands raised
to hold me at a distance
I’m barely breathing

there are voices
in the shadows
I move aside
and they begin to speak

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

image and information: http://www.pataka.org.nz/ngahina-hohaia/

Te Kahu o te Karauna – This is why I won’t stand for the national anthem”
a metal chain korowai (cloak) sculpture by Ngahina Hohaia,
from the exhibition “Tools of Oppression and Liberation”.
This piece refers to the oppression of the peaceful settlement at Parihaka.

 

beach memories

I recognise the mindful way
each foot is placed
stepping over
walking around
careful as she walks
the sandhill path to the beach

I feel the rhythm
the slow quiet pressure and release
as each foot falls and lifts

hands brush through
grasses that grow tall
along the edge of the path
marram grass and lupin
toetoe* and spinifex
each stroke a caress
a hand in a lover’s hair

I reach forward into her touch
and bend away
eager and shy
trusting

the rhythm changes
feet run over sand
land heavily after jumping
over driftwood and seaweed flotsam
until the sea is reached

then all weight is lifted
as she floats and drifts
and still, there is a sense of her
as waves bring her back in
to scuff feet against the sand
and I wash over, tasting her skin

when she leaves
my salt kisses
drying in her hair
wind and sea
smooth her footsteps from the beach

and I hold the shape of her
the weight of her
memory embedded
encoded in roots
lying deep below the surface
waiting

© Claire Griffin 2016

*toetoe = tussock grass (pronounce as “toi toi”)

morning secret

two kereru swoop in
and land on the power lines
thwuump, thwuump of heavy wings
beating down on the cool morning air

a dance begins
or maybe avoidance
it depends on your point of view

one steps left
as if the other is too close
but the movement is mirrored

one turns around
and this too is copied

shuffle, shuffle, step, step, turn

shuffle, shuffle, step, step, turn

until a comfortable distance
between them is achieved
and they sit side by side
buffeted by the wind

a minute passes
and the follower takes the lead
standing tall, chest out, bouncing
up and down on the wire
then starts stepping left

towards the first
who decides enough is enough
and flies off into the shelter of a tree
only to be followed
one more time

behind the leaves
their movements remain
a morning secret

© Claire Griffin 2016

morning song

the rooster is crowing
its 8.00am (7.00 without DST)*
a civilised hour to be awake
and to hear his morning song

the same call, almost one note
over and over and over
his voice occasionally breaking
while he paces slowly
behind the low wire fence

no-one answers
the hens are still dreaming
and here in the suburbs
he has no competition

food is set out, water poured
and the hens encouraged to wake
he settles beside them, quiet now
filling his feathered belly with scraps

birds sing in the nearby trees
some have calls that are just as limited and repetitive
some chirrup, some squeak
and some show off with their multi-note good mornings

blackbird and tui and sparrow and kereru
begin to fly between and over houses
swooping past the small enclosure
and into the surrounding trees

he jumps onto the railing
looks out over the garden
and in the morning sun
clipped wings stretch and flap

* DST = daylight saving time

© Claire Griffin 2016

darkness

there is a darkness gathering
beyond the hills
below the trees
behind my eyes

I hear the shadows calling
the night birds
the dark stars

all the oldest elementals
stand together

this is our last chance
to bend
or else be broken

© Claire Griffin 2016

 

This was written a month ago, late at night, just before sleep. I’d been feeling low – and at first I thought the “darkness” referred to that. But as I wrote, I realised I was thinking of the environment, and imagining/sensing a mythic awakening of primal forces standing just out of sight.

I think there’s a connection to “winter wind – green gods” written a month earlier. Perhaps that imagining had naively called something forth, and they did not step back but were still standing with me in my subconscious.

That low, dark feeling stayed with me until the last couple of weeks. I’ve been reading about archetypes, hero journeys and the “shadow” (Jung) – and I’m wondering if the darkness I felt can be explained by some of this. I’ll keep reading. And while I’ve called this poem “darkness” – and I was sensing a warning while I wrote it, as if we were all being put on notice – somehow now I feel hopeful. (It was just after writing all this that I discovered a movement called “TreeSisters” and their initiative to plant a million trees https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcDKjS5gIbM – I think this helped.)

Anyway, this dark mood has lifted now – that might be due to spring’s arrival, blossoms and light and birds circling the house. 6 October 2016)

fortress

I can carry my own inner child
I can protect and reassure
and love her

but I cannot carry yours as well
you need to heal your own child

you left her alone, crying
into the emptiness, waiting
to be heard, to be held in love

you erected barriers
to keep you both safe
but these kept everyone
at a distance

and now, no matter how much
attention she is given
she will not be
silenced

you are a fortress
harbouring a
crying child

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

And with this, in those last three line, I finally formed a metaphor to describe and explain the behaviour of someone once near to me. Moving past my own hurt and anger, I found something like understanding, almost compassion. But the fourth line holds true – I cannot hold someone else’s pain. I am not responsible for it, and I do not have the answers.