Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Poem: "Song of the Self-Exile"

What conflicts would you have me reconcile?
I’ll harmonise your bittersweet refrain.
Let’s sing the wistful song of self-exile
and gaze into the mirror of our pain.

For forty years, Moses, you have wandered
to wind up here complaining of the sand.
But how many chances have you squandered
to build your own, not find your promised land?

Do you look to this landscape for succour
and lament its lack of comforting green?
Where’s Aoraki to make the sky pucker?
Where are the kauri cathedrals serene?

I know the lakes of glass that keenly call,
but could there lurk beneath a taniwha?
One silver thread is missing from the pall,
not feeling white but feeling Pakeha. 

The hooks of blood are tearing at our flesh.
As one we clamour, stammer and revile.
But pay the price of love and look afresh,
though dry and red, these ancient charms beguile.

A longing in the shadow of your smile,
remembering the lover you first kissed.
Let’s sing the wistful song of self-exile
as Aotearoa calls through the mist.

While living in Perth, I met a fellow Kiwi called Alison Moses (too great a surname not to use symbolically) who had a great deal of ambivalence about her adopted homeland despite having lived there for several years. I wrote this for her and as a reflection of my own ambivalence. The call of home, family ties and one's own culture can be very strong.

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