Friday, June 27, 2008

Poem by Hone Tuwhare (a NZ Maori poet).

I was reminded of this poem while watching Euro 2008, the European soccer championship games this week (this will give you some idea of how my mind works!). Tuwhare is New Zealand’s most distinguished Maori poet writing in English, and also a playwright and author of short fiction. His major, recurrent concerns ... love, friendship, the life of the feelings, the experience of loss and death.

Study in Black and White.

A friend rang me last week as soon as he got
back from the Antartic. Wonderful wonderful:
he seemed genuinely pleased to find me in
but in a careful voice asked if I could look
after something for him. I know,
you’ve brought back a lump of coal, I said.

I have a King Penguin in my fridge.
I look in on it every day as it stands there
with a huge egg between its feet, waiting ...
Stolid, taciturn, it shares the fish with the
cat, the raw minced meat with me.
It stands there with its head absolutely still.
Only its eyes follow me when they are not
already glazed in sleep: I’ve grown fond of it.

And I’m not the only one.
In this house, people come together mainly to
say true and surprising things about each other.
The light-hearted irreverent ones unhappily
have turned particularly grave; frequently
begging me to open the fridge door.
Wonderful, they chant, stroking it: truly wonderful.
I hate it when they go on like that.
Any moment now I’m afraid, they will deify it.

I should ring my friend
to ask if there is a ship or plane leaving soon
for the Antartic: because I really think
King Penguin would be happier standing shoulder to
shoulder with his Royal brothers, each with an egg
at its feet, their backs to the wind and driven
snow, waiting:
for the F. A. Cup winners with the colourful jersies
red noses, flapping arms, to trot on to the
snow-field in single file.

King Penguins should all kick off then and watch the visitors
really break up in a beautiful shower of soaring
eggshells and baby penguins wonderful wonderful.

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