19 December 2017 – notes for a poem – un-named as yet

The sky is pale and grey, not heavy, but flat and low.
The world is shallow, horizontal, with little space to breathe,
except in spaces cleared by flurries of warm wind.
Sparrows visit, fearless, curious thieves,
crumbs disappearing at the speed of flight.
A magpie swoops in, a botanic priest to correct the masses.
A large golden dog steps forward and they take to the air.
The roses are every colour from white to peach, cerise to ruby,
some freshly opened, some over-blown.
Stopping at the climbing roses,
and drawing a branch close to breathe in the perfume,
a conversation approaches, full of soft “-sh-sh-“ sounds,
the sound of the breeze and these dark, blood-red blooms.

This is the beginning of a longer piece based on notes taken on 19 December 2017. Its taken me a while to feel that I’m beginning to understand how this wants to be written. But this feels right, and I’ll persevere with the rest…its not always an easy process.

©clairegriffin2018

footprints

(and in the meantime – imagine a photograph of bird footprints…I’m working on it)

I feel thoughts circling
words waiting to be touched
the birds waiting to land
who have always been with me
just out of sight
only approaching from the side
when I’m looking ahead
or looking back
or when I’m still
eyes closed, mind open, listening
then they come

black birds of the imagination
bones bleached white in memory
feathers full of dreams
songs and claws and tails and wings

they strut and hop across the page
leaving spiky footprints, unbound symbols
runes of divine connection

or gently, they lower one wing
to deceive, or to start over
brushing the page clean

sometimes, they are so sure of their song
they stab with their beak
straight through, and pin it to the page

all I can ever do
is trace a line from the edge of one footprint to the next
and trust in the story
they want told

©clairegriffin2017

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

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

the visitor : myth, traditions and interpretation

With reference to the poem “the visitor”:

Myth:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.

Tradition:
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)

Interpretation:
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.

When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.

Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.

I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.

Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.

One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.

One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.

© Claire Griffin 2016