The sun on its way down torched the clouds and left
them to burn themselves out on the ground:
the north-west wind and the sun both drop at once
behind the mountains. The foreground fills
with a fallen light which lies about the true
colours of absconded things, among
which I place this child whose tenth birthday happens
to have been my father’s, that will be
a hundred years next Thursday. We were to meet
at a time of precisely such radiant
discolourations, the city of his mind.
The smallest leaf‘s alight where he looks
at the riverside willows, the painted iron
glows cold where he holds the garden gate.
The butcher’s horse drops golden turds which steam
in sundown chill, an old man minds where
he walks, whose viridescent black assigns him
to an age before the city was,
I take his (my father’s) hand: we follow him,
bowler hat, silver-topped stick, the hand
knuckled into the small of his back, which aches
to think of riding wet to the girths
and stirrups cutting up a country the size
of England with a sackful of pegs.
Under the one fallen firelit sky the Ngai-
tahu kainga and excavated paa
mark time by moa-bone middens, oceanic
migrations. What gospel will my father
preach to Tuahiwi, counting communicants
and the collection? A lamp-post cab-horse
blows into its nosebag, the old man fumbles
at his fob, his gold Waterbury’s right
by the Post Office clock. By this light the city
is instant history, my father’s mind.
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