My husband and I spent the past four days on the West Coast. I was helping him with some field work involving a lot of bush bashing on steep slopes.
The trip also involved a lot of driving–all the way from Greymouth to Haast, and then over to Wanaka before heading north again. It being the West Coast, the road crossed many creeks, each one named by a small road sign. After a particularly waterway-rich stretch of highway, where we crossed a creek every 50 metres or so, we began to note ALL the creek names. At some point I began writing them down—they were strangely poetic.
I’ve taken a section—State Highway 6 between Haast and Haast Pass—and have written a poem that uses each creek name, in order starting in Haast, and evokes South Westland. The creek names are the only words capitalised.
you swish through the Grassy paddock
to take a Snapshot,
then fossick for Greenstone
on the beach amidst the strewn blossoms
of southern rata, that seasonal Myrtle
Harris says brings out the colour of
your eyes when he tucks a bloom behind your ear.
ankle deep in the Glitterburn
on a tuesday that sparkles with gold
you fire a text to Roy and Joe,
knowing they are stuck in Dismal london,
while you grow Dizzy trying to track
the flitting movement of a tomtit
in the undergrowth, its Gun Boat grey
blending into the shadows, white breast
winking like a Cron command,
Dancing to its own irregular beat.
and deep in the forest, the Roaring Swine
fill the Gap in the silence and find
the Chink between birdsongs.
your Cache of wonder sits at the Depot,
its Square Top a fitting seat
the Imp with Mossy eyes.
his Eighteen Mile hike on Gout swollen feet
has not dampened his spirits.
he recites MacPherson’s translations,
mixing the ancient gaelic with
lines you’re certain came from Douglas adams.
the Serpentine path you wander tumbles
over boulders soft with moss like grandma Evans’ arms
when she would pull you into those hugs you
hated as a teen, when you and your cousin Chelsea
walked the tired streets of town—
three blocks, then Pivot to retrace
the entirety of main street—hoping
for some excitement.
now it is Solitude you crave.
as Douglas said—space is Big—
surely there is enough of it that you
can carve out your own piece of it
here, among the ancient footprints
of Moa, tangled in a Briar,
imagining Haast eagles soaring overhead.
Diana would have been your goddess,
in this wilderness of rain where The Trickle
of water is more like a roar and
liquid is a Cutter of stone.
you would stay here for decades
like Robinson crusoe, study the
ants at your feet as though you
were e. o. Wilson.
instead you Cross the river
and stand dripping and shiny
as a nugget of gold on the other side.