Still Life

Still Life
1979

matakitaki_river
The Matakitaki River, where our dad panned for gold in the 1930’s, with acknowledgements to tramping.net.nz for use of this image.

Father,
_the tools you leave me
_to chip, saw and shave wood
_shall be idle.
_the grease thicken with dust,
_the bench just as you
_left it to plane
_evening after evening,
_the handles worn to
_living grain be ready
_as the dawn’s embrace.
_I will touch nothing
_for wood’s a stranger to me,
_its cool willingness
_to let even the knots
_that bear no injury
_be made under the patient
_second’s work

Father,
_you have sluiced your age
_through the honest timbers
_you’re known as.
_Seen how winter
_takes the gorge,
_killed in the snow for meat,
_panned for gold in the springmelt
_silent at the creek.
_You would sing for us,
_pressing the strings
_in steady time with your
_thumb, strong as a hammer,
_your lowered voice rough
_as the kiss you left us
_each night with.

Father,
_I will not sail as your boat
_sold into another’s hands,
_but your reflection on the ice,
_see me, thawing into age.

Copyright © 1979 Peter Le Baige. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced here in the original typography from my own collection ‘Breakers’ printed at North Shore Copy Centre Ltd, 1979.

Click on the link above to hear a dusted-down ‘4 by 2’ reading of the poem.

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