new zealand electronic poetry centre

Dinah Hawken

online works


Helping Hands

Wellington Botanic Garden 2004                                 

Between three trees
there lies the story of our lives:
habitat, travel, luck, fate and age.

Between three trees

hinau     eucalyptus     oak

there is a universe of roots,
a dramatic branching out
and an internet
of crucially angled leaves.

From the road above the playground
the eucalyptus pulchella

unfurls like a great sail.

(It has blown across the Tasman
like your father,
like the silver eye.)

It is also a torso:
a dancer      in the last second
of flight     weight
about to be taken in the braced
arms of pinus radiata.     Two poles
anchored in.    Inclined and crossed.

Who first thought
to attend this leaning tree
with a severed root?

Someone arranged this partnership
-  and decided to make it
a breath-taking installation.

Between these trees
I see your hands

in the pine and rimu coffin,
sculptured, old, elegant, still.

As cold as a branch
in the shade on a mid-winter day.

I know
because I touched them.

I placed my hands
over your hands
trying to take an imprint
and to make a replica.

They say the hinau
hollowed out and precarious
in the steep forest gully

belted by two 'cobra' and secured
back by grab-lines to the younger
trees behind it

is the oldest in the Garden
and yet it is leaning out
like a hang-glider (like you
on your aluminium walker)
still reaching for light,
still taking, and making, the air.

Between these trees
I see the courage and drama
of a single, long-lived life.

I see you fall at 87

and afterwards

that bleak moment

from which you decided
to go on living, alone,
with a broken shoulder
and an injured other hand.

That moment I knew:
I saw every human being
but you were the one
I was absolutely there with,
the one I was able, after all,
and above all,
to give a helping hand.

The oak is the least
common oak I have ever seen.
It is the one tree in the Garden
I want to hug
but it is lying down on the lawn
beside Glenmore Street, its roots
in an underground stream,
its head on the fence
and its branches heading straight up
like the handles of two cranky sun umbrellas
wobbling over people waiting for the bus.

This character ambled out the door
of an English pub, with a Roman name.
And fell over. Now children call it
the 'one-eyed dragon' and ride on its back.

Quercus Robur. Words for strength
come straight from you: roborant,
robust, robustious, robustiously.

But you had a shaky start.
Then the gardeners came with a pillow
of railway sleepers. Now the latest fence
has been designed around you
and an elbow crutch of pinus radiata

fitted and kept in place
with a black rubber sleeve.
I bet they've done this
because they love you.

I do too.

We love your love of the horizontal.
We wish that we too
could fall down in a Garden,
stay fallen, and still thrive.

Dinah Hawken

Last updated 14 December, 2004