Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Graham Bishop

The Last Moa (Dinornis nomoris)
Dedicated to Dr Bruce Spittle, the last of the Moahunters

The first time that we met the bird
we were camping by a secret lake
when at midnight came the most dreadful cry
I ever heard
In the morning tracks there were in the sand
We took our photos but stilled our tongues
lest they thought us mad
and it's nice to have some mysteries left in life

At Arcadia, in the shadow of Red Mountain
we heard the fearsome cry once more
to find next day that our beer was gone
and the primus fuel was drunk
as happened in the Dredgeburn
the year before

We saw the bird next morning
standing underneath a waterfall
Big feet, brown hairy legs, plumage blue top and lower
and grey on top, with whiskers around it's beak
more like an aging kiwi than a moa
It carried a young one upside down
as a backward possum might,
but certainly looked sharp enough to read and write
We put it in my backpack
but its feet and neck stuck out and it soon escaped
to be decapitated by the chopper coming in to land

In its death throes the giant bird let forth an egg
which shattered into a thousand pieces
We laid it reverently to rest alongside its mighty mother,
in a swamp near a pyramid-shaped hill
where one day a fossicker will dig
and in time the bird will stand, tallest in the land
proudly under the summer sky
in the City of the Plains

Stand tall,
Apteryx spittlei
Dinornis nomoris

Role Play

We were wondering
who enjoyed it most
the sly taste of slipping together
and could we swap sides to share the other role
I wouldn't swap it for anything
you said

But now you have exchanged it for nothing

[On receipt of yet another "I am sorry" letter]

The Editor Regrets

Thankyou for submitting your poem
Unfortunately I cannot use it at this time
or any other time
so douse that glimmer of hope
It is unclear how I acquired
my right of divine decision
It is safer to be standfast than new
and push rising bubbles back into the murky depths
Excuse me
I find pulling the wings off flies
sharpens my judgment

Graham Bishop was a leading mountaineer and geologist. He has now retired and divides his time between walking, writing and wondering. His fourth book, Poles Apart is an autobiographical assemblage of poetry and prose. He is currently working on a biography of Alexander Mckay (1841-1917), another geologist who wrote poetry.

Peter Olds Meg Campbell Kirin Cerise Simon Lewis Graham Bishop Mahinarangi Tocker

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