Jan/Feb 2007 Poetry

Two Poems

by Robert James Berry

Artwork by Ira Joel Haber

Oraki Utuhia

A dark creek churns where land flattens out.
For eons, the siltstone has imprisoned ammonites.
In bedrock lapped by sea are fossil trees, Jurassic wood.
There were no birds when this forest stood, just astonishing soundlessness.
Now sawmills are all gone:
only black stumps, coarse pasture
won from the bush. Slopes have a fleshy
hue. The nasty mizzle
is forever. Wind-shorn marcocarpas will never
straighten bent snipes. If you walk the beach
down where the sand crescents, arches, blowholes,
rock stacks make raw shore art.
You may happen
on a sea lion, hauled out, draped in bull kelp.
In the dune vegetation there are human bones,
for these are burial grounds.



There is a muddy photograph
where hills seem higher,
the bridge a more daring span.
A fenced road takes a wide swipe
into town. Miners' allotments
trodden over by time
leave indecipherable shadows
on earth. In the foreground
I study calloused hands of pick men
leant over shovels, making our history,
men who pushed into these
insurmountable mountains and
never came back. Their guttered
roofs, windows with vistas
onto pioneer dreams,
obliterated by bush. Up to
hips in mud, cradling gold,
their diggings have excised
whole hills. But the ranges
have healed old wounds,
so if you take a photo now
from the same spot across the river,
only the old schoolhouse clutches its memories.
The rest is invisible.


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