Te Werahi Beach & the promised land

*Te Werahi Beach & the promised land
the rhyme of the rock & headline, taken in that dawn, the waves were the only person walking
from the drenched shadow of the morning cliff
looking west it lay out on the running ocean
Cape Maria van Diemen,
a name scratched down once of a time
by restless europeans on parchment,
a promised land of the dawn
mapped in early gold
sand hills forged as
simple as cloud along
the still pink rim of sky west
or a rock on the inward rush
of a wave the beach wide
hid a city on the other side
of old things,
missing friends, lost stories, altars
laden with fruits and burning meats,
old sailors of the pacific
and further seas in the tavern
dead drunk in their mermaids’ clasp.
streets that drop away like winds
in the folds of a mainsail
a city that cannot last the sun falling
from higher than the tip
of the ridge, a whole city
gone like dew in the curl of the
marram grass whipped back
and forth on the sand
the ocean riding on in
foaming across the hardened
sand, bubbles and sunken
sky in tow.
a promised land of quiet prayers that
turn across the sky a flock of birds
of terns painted like wave tips
a land of plenty, time stopping
when your thought does,
your brush, your pen dipped
in the cupped well of your silence
earned in the dripping together
of hours
a promised land
that is promised only in the little
time before the sun moves
on those sands, those hills,
and the wind overturns
it all in bare unshadowed
gone like a feather
off the back of your hand
the door
to the
open in
the day.
                                             te reinga, aotearoa,
                                             february 2011
A poem for me is a collision of coincidences between language and memory, language and feeling.  I have noted below some of the associations which this piece has for me that came to light in its writing and afterwards. I would not normally do so for any piece I’ve written, but for whatever reason, felt prompted to do so in this case. 
restless europeans
reference to the following talk between C. Jung and a Hopi indian elder: At the Taos pueblo, Jung spoke for the first time with a non-white, a Hopi elder named Antonio Mirabal (also known as Ochwiay Biano and Mountain Lake), who said that whites were always uneasy and restless: “We do not understand them. We think that they are mad” (‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’, Jung, 1973, p. 248). Jung asked him why he thought the whites were mad, and the reply was ” ‘They say that they think with their heads . . . . We think here,’ he said, indicating his heart” (p. 248).
a promised land
I was reminded by the beautiful profile of the sand hills of William Blake’s poem ‘Jerusalem’, a wonderful chariot of English words, sturdy and unbroken after 300 years
early gold
early in the morning, and a memory of gold just valued for its beauty, rather than monetary value
hid a city on the other side
couldn’t see the other side of the sand hills, but precisely for this reason I imagined a whole mystical city there, like Blake’s Jerusalem’ – not really existing anywhere
old sailors of the pacific
 and further seas
all those sailors whether polynesian, european, asian or whoever else, who made it everywhere over the waters by star and sextant 
streets that
drop away like winds
in the folds of a mainsail
streets of white houses in the cycladic isles, that drop off steeply down hillsides, like wind spilling out of a white mainsail I’ve always thought
gone like dew in the curl of the
marram grass 
all a dream, some obscure reference in my mind to the Japanese story translated by Lafcadio Hearn (early scholar on Japanese culture/literature) about someone dreaming beside an ant nest and becoming a king in his dream, waking and realizing everything in his dream was in fact just a reflection of the ant nest (king, soldiers, castle etc)
the door
to the
dead open in
the day.
of course death is open any time for business, but somehow the image of the arch over the entrance to Agamemnon’s tomb (referred to as Agamemnon’s tomb but apparently an unknown king’s) that I saw at Mycenae some 30 years ago came to mind after thinking about this poem for a month or so, and also that I was at Te Reinga where the Maori dead depart Aotearoa to return to Hawaiki.

Copyright © 2011 Peter Le Baige. All Rights Reserved

The music is taken from the third movement of Ravel’s String quartet in F major (composed in 1903) in a 1984 recording by the Alban Berg Quartett.

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