L o v e ,  W a r   a n d   L a s t   T h i n g s
   n z e p c



Mary Stanley    (1919-1980)



Mary Stanley



To B—

Here or hereafter there is no escape
From me. My guardian spirit is gone out
Into the far shadowy paths where rest now
Your feet. I hide among the olive boughs,
The slender wreathing tendrils of the grape
Are my wild hair. Look up and see my face
Amongst the ice-bright peaks. Though sharp spears hem
You in they cannot build a wall too high
To shut me out. I am sweet water, ease
After pain, the shadow in the burning place.

And should this harsh storm shatter your belov’d
And gentle head, the thunder burst your ears,
The swift decisive steel bite your dear flesh
And dark lost ways of death’s strange kingdom claim
Your naked soul, you still have not removed
My love’s light harness shaken off my flying
Feet. Through heaven’s far valleys I shall still
Pursue and hunt you down amongst the stars
And dim blue aisles of air. I shall awake
Hell’s fiery deeps with echoes of my crying.

And if beyond this life only the grey
Waters of oblivion lie, and all that once
You were goes down into that waste of silence,
I still shall rest in that same earth that shelters
Your dead hands and sightless eyes. Day
And night spin round us both. The wind and clear
Rains dissolve and fuse our final dust
As once our bodies were when strong waves,
Lifting, drowned us. Blind and breathless we lay
At the world’s heart, O my very dear.

Lyric Poems of New Zealand 1928-1942. Ed. CA Marris (Whitcombe and Tombs, 1944).
Reprinted nzepc Mary Stanley author page, 2002
Recorded 2008 by Sian Ellett at the University of Auckland.

The Widow

Irrefrangible, by fire hardened,
tempered by ice, this love I bear him now,
being dead, beyond all comfort burdened,
unalterable as law, will neither grow
nor lessen. Time my catalyst has shaped
this stone no weather shall wear down
or stream polish to anonymity. O raped,
bruised, blinded this once was green; the flame
of sap rose to a kiss, and kissing fought
to die a death other than this he took
by one stray bullet of a war. What weight
of years and earth the living tree made rock
has shrunk my cooling flanks, given nurse to ghosts
nightly importunate at flattened breasts.

NZ Poetry Yearbook 2 (1952). Reprinted in Starveling Year and Other Poems (Auckland UP, 1994).
Recorded 2008 by Sian Ellett at the University of Auckland.

Record Perpetual Loss

Automaton whose stiffened gesture writes
footnotes to faces, none escapes your hand.
a finger irresponsible as wind
or water smoothes away all feature from
the loved image at last anonymous.
Lighter than dust the remembered kiss is lost
forever on the lip of chance. By change
the migratory heart is turned to fresh
preoccupations; hour by hour, act
by act. This counterpoint of breath removes
the past, empties the echo from the ear.
What mirror or wintry crystal may record
perpetual loss, by separation chafe
my eye to tears? This I, I was, is not
older only by years, rejects the girl
I would not recognise whose fictions grown
too thin with use are useless to refute
the cold unanswerable logic of a death.


Starveling Year (Pegasus Press, 1953 / Auckland UP, 1994).
Recorded 2008 by Sian Ellett at the University of Auckland.



Last updated 20 June, 2008