new zealand electronic poetry centre

Cilla McQueen

online works



Oyster tang, a misty salty morning,
sky ridged like the roof of a dragon's mouth
grazing on lilies -
I am thinking of far blue islands,
crosscurrents deep in the sky, paua under rocks
and bronze kelp swirling,
flocks of muttonbirds skimming the water.
The black wings beat and glide above clear green.
North-east over trees and houses,
the harbour and dark blue hills
far and clear, pylons striding westward
to the power lodes of southern lakes.
Above us, Motupohue,
staunch full stop at the end of the land.
Chilly and sweet,
sunshine in Liffey Street.
Clouds flee and gather, darkening for rain,
wind whirls around the black hill
and slams down on the town,
sunlight blares through bright between indigo clouds.
At the kitchen table
my pleasure is handwriting
in lissom superconducting ink,
in silence but for the fire and the fridge.
The wind sings.
The borer are eating the house in tiny bites.
I sprinkle an oven tray with flour
like stars, like snow, remembering
being newborn, held in arms
and carried to the window to look out
at snow and stars in sheer delight.
Slow rain prickles on the iron roof
and then the roof dissolves, storm-sluiced.
A thunderbolt cracks over us,
writes lightning on the sky.
The wind in eaves, in walls and windows
draws a sound from everything it passes,
a meditation within the sound,
a voice, murmuring.
Within the tall quiet house
built of the heart of trees,
a poetry of memory and time.
There is a listening quality
of silence in the house.
Amethyst light in the hallway,
the sky outside like a gull's wing.
Currents of grief and laughter
flow through days changeable as weather,
chaotic, fruitful, resonant - laughter and grief,
anger and tenderness, shadow and sunlight
chasing each other across the landscape.
Their supple vines weave back and forth
through time and wind-pierced weatherboards
to hold us all in a creel of love.
In time
things arrange themselves, patterns
evolve from chaos, times arch
from darkness into darkness,
etched by light, by love, laughter,
life's abrasion.
Time is place.
The house sleeps, flames whicker
in the Shacklock No.1 (Improved) coal range,
her warm cast iron heart.
Spare old house, archaic, threadbare -
surely in its oblique dimension
the soul does not desiccate
as the body does with age,
but burns the brighter for long life.
The wind sings, the house listens.
I write at the kitchen table.
The law of Murphy reigns -
that what can happen, will,
and consequences bloom like clouds
beyond their butterfly cause,
resolving and dissolving
as if they never were
except for memory,
a star at the edge of sight.
In Liffey Street
time dimples and spins
like the surface of water.


From Markings (Dunedin: U of Otago Press, 2000)

Last updated 1 April, 2006