new zealand electronic poetry centre

Dinah Hawken

online works


Leaving Footprints

Bolton Street Cemetery July 2004

Today in the Jewish cemetery
headstones are face down
on the beds of their graves:

they whisper their names and ages
in Hebrew and in English
to the dust of their own bodies:

they give the dates of their deaths
to the damp earth
from which we have all come.

The earth is curved and open
and on the muddied grass
are the footprints of human beings.

Some have come with flowers:
daffodils, primula, camellias are laid
singly on the smashed graves.

There is a note on pale blue paper:
'To the Jewish community. Thinking of you.'
The gardeners have come to tidy, repair.

Others have been to trample and wreck
– bare trees are exacting witnesses –
they could end their lives in despair.

Claire matin, eleganteria, complicata  -
the foreign names of old roses hang
on black tags off the rusted railings.

The day is grey and calm.
A tui comes into the silver birch
and does not sing.

Dinah Hawken

Last updated 14 December, 2004