new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
B r i a n   T u r n e r

The Rocks Below
                (for David Ray)

On this wild exposed coast the young Baxter
               mooched and meandered and grappled
with the anguish of wondering
               if he would ever grow up
someone of consequence, not to others
               so much as to himself. Of all our poets
he burned the most with those twin demons
               outrage and despair. And here, 

visiting from Missouri, is another poet
               who, typically, brings his loves
and troubles and memories and grief
               with him, but most of all
his grief for one he loved especially,
               and his burdening love for what
might have been and now can never be.

It seems we grieve most for the love
               we did not know we had
in such measure, or at least I think
               that is what we do; and if
our words could somehow truly replicate
               the feelings we come to realise
we had, we would treasure them
               above all else. Baxter roved 

this cantakerous coast from Blackhead
               to Taieri Mouth and beyond, south
past Akatore towards the Nuggets
               convinced that ‘In the Otago storms…
The wind is a drunkard’, and he watched
               with reverence and wonder ‘the waves of bright lead’
curl in, clear-lit by the westering
               sun. And he never knew, my friend,
the ‘great peace’ you would love to know, 

and so would I. And when your son Sam wrote,
               ‘I feel an old man in me’ he spoke
for too many, because the day
               you feel that rankling, that nudging
that stirs the heart to write,
               is the day you know that somehow 

you’re old before your time. Already
               he knew that the most memorable poems
are storms that march from the heart
               and kick clear of the head. I can see
how Sam was that ‘bright wave’ that only those 

‘who loved him can see’, and here
               on the headland Baxter frequented
when he was Sam’s age, I watch
               in my middle age the seas lift translucently
in the autumn sun, and I feel
               the earth’s tender vibrations as the waves
break on the gutted rocks below.


[from All That Blue Can Be, John McIndoe]


© Brian Turner 2004


Last updated 11 July, 2004