your body tells me

all is quiet and peaceful
the white body stretches
fluff and tufts and curls
pink underbelly revealed
sleep takes time and
a commitment to stillness
its all an illusion of calm

when awake, the furred paws reach out
desiring but sensitive to touch
pleasure quickly shifting
to irritation and reactive bite
slowly I’m learning how to connect
keep a firm pressure
just the head and scruff

when awake, the stomach leads, curiosity follows
with long, late night explorations
returning early morning
tousled, leaves hitch-hiking in the fur
strolling in like some careless wanderer
fresh from gallivanting about the neighbourhood
an opportunist, a pathfinder, a rapscallion

you have a history that I’ll never know
for now all that matters is that I am patient
and learn to understand your unique nature
there is an energy around you that I’m trying to read
and if I sit still and watch
your body tells me everything I need

fire walks on snow

IMG_7935

©clairegriffin2017

(Prisma app used with original photo of the newbie)

emptiness

there is an emptiness
my memory cannot fill

the room is quiet, the air is still
you will not cross this floor
nor cast a shadow

but you will meet me in dreams
a tall dark woman with golden eyes
cloaked in velvet, brushed with star-light
you will lead me through the wild world
to the hiding places under trees

I will follow you
my heart beating in time
with every breath and silent step
and we will sleep
curled together in the night

©clairegriffin2017

in memory of Frida – my wild gypsy queen – gone to wander among the stars
16 or more years – she came to me as a street-wise, street-child who would not be held,
who would fight for her freedom to roam the wild places
a canny little thing – never once, to my knowledge, in a fight with another cat,
but I did find her watching once or twice
after a year or two of patiently letting her have her way, she walked in one day,
made eye contact, and decided to be more approachable
she loved to be brushed, she’d let her claws be trimmed without a fuss
she had a few health problems – hyperthyroidism, flea allergy, and later kidney problems
she had a love of ice cream I put down to a deprived childhood
during the last night of my handsome Thomas,
she stayed up all night, keeping vigil with me
and after he passed she became closer, snugglier
she’s been by my side constantly these last couple of years while I’ve read and written
my way into a deeper understanding of myself
this little shadow, this feisty willful girl – she deserves to have the best of times
in this new, mysterious chapter of her life

becoming my own myth

I dig into the dirt to plant seedlings, sweet peas
imagining them winding their tendrils round stakes
pulling themselves up to the sun before bursting into flower
my fingers hold the earth aside, then press it down to secure a fragile stem
as I start to make another hollow
I push my hands deep into the earth
and …

I am searching for the way back into my past
I am searching for some evidence of belonging
something that will connect me
I pull my hands from the dirt
and all I can see is longing

this land is rich in story
every mountain, tree and bird has name and meaning and myth
but do the stories of this land belong to me?
my ancestors were far, far away when first these tales were told
and now, do the voices of this land speak to me?
and if they do, can I claim them as my own?

born here, four generations or more, but far from the source
disconnected by time and distance, origins lost
those who chose to leave their homes to start again so far away
some thrived, some were broken
I’ve had to learn the names of my family and my birthplace
instead of breathing them in as a babe
the stories of my people didn’t come to me first hand
I’ve never heard them spoken
I can only read the sleeping words
and imagine them rising from the page

there seems no other choice than that I must become my own myth
send my roots down deep into this rich soil
until I feel connected

I would become green-fingered from the feet up
to become a root-knower, stem-lifter, seed-gatherer
I would understand the alchemy of gold to green

but for now

I am become
the memory of the fair-haired child, lost and fearful,
except when barefoot, running wild in her imagination
I am become the troubled woman, seeking security, trying to refuse the easy road
the intentional woman, trusting instincts, curious and creative
who discovered she needed to birth herself
time-shifting to lift and shelter the memory-child,
who tells herself stories,
writes herself into the past and leaves the door open to the future

I listen to birds
and watch the dance of trees
I learn the language of dreams
I have no myths but the ones I tell myself

I dig into the dirt
to plant new life in the soil
I pull my hands from the earth
and now all I can see are stars and flowers

©clairegriffin2017

It’s taken a month to write this – one of those pieces that demanded to be finished before I could move on to something new.
I’d been thinking about those whose forebears moved to another country, and their descendants. There can be feelings of disconnection from the ancestral country, questions which aren’t answered by knowledge of the place of birth. This is the case for me.
I’m aware of some of the Māori history and myth of Aotearoa New Zealand, but not being Māori, I wonder if those stories can also be mine.
And yet, I was born here, I have no-where else. My people came from Scotland, Ireland, and England, and while some of the myths and histories of these places resonate with me, I can’t quite own them. I don’t belong there – my southern Pacific upbringing in this nation has shaped me into a very different creature. I’m not British, I’m not European (although I understand this is used to define origins/ethnicity), and I can’t quite claim the stories of those countries as my own, not in any living, contemporary sense.
I have the added difficulty of a disrupted family history. So this all starts to sound like a question of identity. The stories our ancestors tell help to form our sense of self and belonging. As a Pākehā New Zealander, what are my stories, my mythic tales to explain my place in the world? I want myths that belong to me, that are born of this land.
The late Michael King wrote about Pākehā identity and culture, and this could be the time for me to read his work on this. Strange that I’ve never explored it before now.

 

 

a Tui in the rain


your black body lands on the green

sunlight strikes
and you flash emerald, turquoise and bronze
white-ruffed like an Elizabethan prince
outrageous elegance in this suburban garden

you pluck a purple berry from the Māhoe tree

I imagine …
you keep a ball of soot and sap tucked under your wing
and on rainy days like these you bring it out
spit berry juice over it and knead it into paste with one clawed foot
ready to make your mark

if I held my hand still
would you slip your beak into my skin
and ink your name, engrave a permanence
a sign of allegiance for the nights when you are hidden in the trees

I imagine …
writing a sonnet to your dark beauty
while I compose, you shriek and chortle
you fill your belly with violet pearls
your white bib staining amethyst
before taking wing to sing oblivious in the secret wood

©clairegriffin2017

quiet rain

in the still morning
quiet rain works its way
down through the branches
one drop embracing another
until heavy enough
to slide off edges and drop from buds
to fall to the green beds below
shaking leaves awake

the bush comes alive
as each small union of sky-tears
leap toward the earth

 

©clairegriffin2017

I never knew

I am lost in your hunger

I have bowls full of honey and figs
salted caramel, dark chocolate, and cherries
but I don’t know what to offer you

its no good showing me your hands
or your bright blue eyes
or the curl at the corners of your mouth
they don’t tell me what you need

your hands are soft, your fingers long
skillful, gentle, strong
they don’t show me what you need to touch
that you want to roughen your skin
with dirt and wood and stone
these hands caress, they gift forgiveness
I never knew
they wanted to be held

your eyes are blue
deep set, astute
they are restless and curious
scanning for beauty and the next new thing
they don’t show me that you want to see
the familiar, and the new, grown old
these eyes can cross a room
they share your soul
but I never knew you wanted me
to see them closed

and I can’t trust your mouth
to tell me what you need
all fullness and laughter and easy smile
you speak of honesty and truth
you’d rather your words hurt me, than lie
you appear to question fearlessly
I never knew you trembled before each answer
I never knew you needed more than promises
kissed into your hair
I never knew you needed to bite through
the skin of devotion
that you needed me to bite back

hold out your hands
that I might take them in mine

close your eyes
that I might watch you sleep

show me your teeth
that I might know what to feed you

 

©clairegriffin2017

summer prayer

out of time / out of place

drenched in sun
heat soaks into skin
warms the blood, reaches bone
flesh swells, hair bleaches

this is no drying, endangering fire
this is lifeforce
entering, awakening

days of sun repeat

beginning to trust
each night will turn to light and heat
blue sky endless
breeze just enough to cool the skin

fat bees fly past, heavy with pollen
cicadas call, birds call
sheep call and answer

the wind finds voice
whispering through tall, pale gum trees

my silence and life’s song
under the summer sun

out of time / out of place

tuning in to nature
ready to respond
ready to become
let the wind move
through me
find your voice
in me

I am open
to the world’s will
and every bug and bird
and bud and tree
and river, rock, and mountain
move in me.

©clairegriffin2017

This was written just after xmas when staying at an old farmhouse for a few days over the summer in 2011. I had been lying out in the sun, reading a book on journaling, in that state when you’re searching for something but you don’t know what it is. I was looking outside myself – I hadn’t yet learnt to look within – but I was getting closer…

This is one of those poems that came very quickly – all except one word. I was stuck on the word that needed to sit after ‘rock’. I puzzled over this off and on – then left it for ages. Its interesting that its now (after settling on Rimutaka for my mihi just a couple of weeks ago – see the previous poem “the heart of this hill”) that mountain seems to fit perfectly. 

Either just before or after I wrote this, I went for a walk along the dusty gravel road – and as I walked round the bend that led slightly uphill – I had a sense of, a desire for, everything to be white. Almost the sense of wedding the land – sinking into, and becoming one with, the land around me. I remember thinking that if the sun was to vapourise me in that very moment – I would be content.

27 December 2011 – completed 16 September 2017.