Category Archives: Neither duck nor moo

On the Whanganui River

I grasp the moment
the way I grasp this paddle –
as lightly as I can,
knuckles still white.

The weight of time
is my ballast –
the ghost of a seal hunter
cutting through ice water.

No glacier-melt here.
The river gorge is a leaking boat
letting in sunlight
to leave me soaking hot.

On the stony sandbank
an installation of
driftwood sculptures
lies artfully abandoned.

Among the tree ferns
and rata vines
cicadas complain incessantly
about the heat.

A harrier hawk rises like a hymn
at the note of my paddle
and then is gone.

(C) Helen Lewis, 2006

______________________________

The Whanganui River is on the North Island of New Zealand. Here’s a link to a couple of short videos about the canoe journey down the Whanganui. 

Advertisements

Meditations on a mountain: five haiku

 

i

sunrise paints the slopes

in semi-precious colours

pearlescent with ice

 

ii

the wind carries the

tang of fresh snow, sends flocks of

prayer flags fluttering

 

iii

rising up from the

monastery the scent of

sandalwood incense

 

iv

sunlight glints off prayer

wheels, inscriptions worn smooth by

a million fingers

 

v

the mountain’s a sand

mandala, washing away

in the stream of time

 

© Helen Lewis, 2013

 

______________________________

I wrote this series of linked haiku during a round of SPARK, in response to a painting by Cynthia Pailet. See the two together here.

 


The Matrix

 

You know that bit

in The Matrix

where Neo wakes up

on a bunk bed,

head shaved,

cheeks like rice paper?

 

Remember how his fingers

scan the back of his skull

like a child reading Braille

and stop

when they find the hole?

 

That’s when he knows

for certain

he’s no longer dreaming.

 

I keep on feeling

the back of my head

but so far,

nothing.

 

© Helen Lewis, 2006


Seasons

 

The season’s turning now. Late summer’s long-held breath

is finally exhaled. Now autumn’s alchemy

has seeped its way inside the trees to turn their leaves

to copper, bronze and gold. The sky’s no longer blue;

its cobalt wash is painted out with layers of grey.

The wind blows cooler, damper, stronger from the sea.

The river’s high and brown, and summer’s dusty paths

have turned to muddy tracks. The scent of wood smoke drifts

inside from down the street. We stack logs on the porch.

I find it strange to think that half a world away

the season’s turning too; that where I once called home

the spring is breezing in, and kissing grey to green.

 

(C) Helen Lewis, 2006 

 


The gift

                                                                                             

You give me love. Its frame is cracked,

its silvered face is pock-marked black.                                                                                              

 

You say, ‘It’s only second-hand,’

I squeeze your arm. I understand.

 

I hang your present in the hall.

I screw it tight so it won’t fall.

 

I gaze beyond the glass and wood.

I never knew I looked this good.

 

 (C) Helen Lewis, 2006

 

 

 


August

 

The distant hills, patched dusty green and gold,

Dissolve and ripple in the evening haze,

And rivers trace a winding azure web

Through sunlit fields where lazy cattle graze.

 

Just here, knee deep in waving meadow grass,

The sinking sun still warm against my cheek,

A sighing ash disturbs the heavy hush.

My heart stands still. I’d swear I heard you speak.

 

I lie down under weeping willow boughs,

Where clouds of midges dance against the blue,

And close my eyes to ease my memory

Back to that short, hot summer spent with you.

 

Now interfering sight is out of mind,

My other senses exercise their skill,

Conspire against my crashed and burned-out heart

To make believe you’re lying with me still.

 

The feathered grass that strokes my goosebumped skin

Mimics your restless touch – a callous plot!

The gentle breeze that plays across my lips

Becomes your breath, so tender, sweet and hot.

 

The soothing swish of branches in the wind

Echoes your urgent whisper in my ear,

That everything you’ll ever need in life,

Is everything you have right now, right here.

 

But everything I gave was not enough

To tame the wayward fire of your love.

And now the chill of nightfall closes in,

While drifts of stars dust indigo above.

 

The distant hills, washed dusky grey and mauve,

Smudge out to shadows now, as darkness grows,

And rivers trace a glinting silver web,

Through moonlit fields where drowsy cattle doze.

 

While shards of your deception stab me still,

Our supernova joy explodes the pain.

And even though I sit at wisdom’s feet,

If you stood here, I’d rise, and fall again.

 

(C) Helen Lewis, 2004


Apollo and Daphne

 

Rome in August. Only the tourists and the feral cats are left.

Fugitive from the heat, I take sanctuary in the Villa Borghese.

Beyond its heavy doors, the squeak of trainers and the smell of beeswax.

 

In a wedding cake of a room, a sculpture in white marble:  

A youthful Apollo chases a naked Daphne. As his hand touches her waist

She turns away, arms reaching up, fingers sprouting leaves,

Toes sending forth roots, bark closing around her legs and hips.

 

This binary star pulls me in to its orbit.

As I circle my perspective shifts.

 

Now the bile of Daphne’s revulsion rises in my throat.

Now the softness of her belly gives way beneath my fingers.

 Now my skin tightens and scabs over.

 Now my fingers are pinched between closing layers of bark.

 Now I’m high with the sugar-rush of rising sap.

 Now I breathe in the warm, woody scent of bay leaves.

 

I stop.

Below Daphne’s feet words are carved into the plinth –

Mediaeval graffiti ordered by a fat cardinal:

‘Pursuing earthly pleasures always ends in tears.’

An object of passion and beauty ten million years in the making

Reduced to a sound bite in Latin.

 

I close the cover on my mental notebook.

 

In the eternal city

Gian Lorenzo carves scalpel lines in space-time

While I hack away at nothing

With a sledgehammer of words.

 

(c) Helen Lewis, 2009


%d bloggers like this: