new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

online works


Any nerve tells us, foxes should bark
about a mile away, crows make their wood
darkly significant. We intrude.
Beyond range of our hearing
analogy of kind transacts –
we are not of that kind. What counts
against us? This, precisely: being unlike
in a county of stone circles, circles
of trees, among countrymen
whose speech a form of history is hard
to follow. Readily we fail, to understand
what stones imply or trees may spell
in a deceptive season’s half-life.

The better part of a mile off
key as crow barks or fox flies,
a prosaically ruined chapel
with a farming hamlet named obscurely
for a saint, Finadamnan,
snagged in a cleft by a stream.

Dialectic of  kind, peculiar
as the farmer we talk with
whose fields rise against only lowlying crests.
Not much there that one looks out on,
rigged circle of stones, cramped
circle of trees, you are more aware,
some patchy drifting mist. How pastoral
can you get, how given over?

Decoded, his language is saying,
‘That’s where they used to hang witches
and sheepstealers,’ uneasy, or embarrassed.
He is a countryman, of a horned god.

History, disorder of the herd,
altogether too pastoral. Self-indulgent, we came
quite early, there was enough light to see
by. A tic, it compels us. We are called to observe,
to conclude, craving renewing assurance.
And we intrude. When we go, we move away
from our conclusions, passing between
the mundane and an art of licence.
Pass, by a farm where a bullroaring muckspreading
tractor works cloudily, gay as any green
bridesmaid flirting her veil, lithe as a filly
full of oats. A spirit of place finds shape
in a moment, strangers unexceptionably
we are showered in shit from the stables.

History is real, you may touch,
eye, taste, smell it out from
its forms or casual deformities.

Selected Poems. AUP 1989, p. 83.



Last updated 11 May 2001