Friday, July 17, 2009

Wistful about distance

Life's been pretty full-on the past couple of weeks which means I've been more offline than on... 

Returning to the blogosphere, I feel a little like one of those eels that's swum - or crawled (they sometimes have to, when there's a mission to accomplish and/or the going gets muddy) - upstream to lay her eggs and hatch her babies in fresh water, before turning round and heading back to the salty water she's more accustomed to inhabiting... Will the dolphins and jellyfish still recognize her?! Will the sea lettuce and kelp taste the same? 

Hmmm. I guess a regular old eel would flick her tail and splash about where she finds herself? Eels are supposedly adaptable creatures... 

Speaking of eels, once upon a time, in the 1980's (when I was a student at art college in London), I lived in a drafty old house with an 86-year Cornish woman who - every month, come what may - donated a fraction of her very small fortune to two charities; 'Save the Eel' and 'Save the Donkey.' She did this with the fervour of a zealot and in the process taught me to respect the former and look with renewed tenderness at the latter... Oh, and she - Jessica - was the person who first introduced me to the delights of guinness. (Her father gave her her first tot of the black potion when she was two years old, and from that point on, planted a shot glass of guinness in her hands every evening throughout her childhood - 'iron is fortifying, my dear.')    

Anyway, I woke this morning wishing I could momentarily bridge the physical gap between our small island nation and certain large continents to the South and North West of us. Perhaps our S. Island earthquake had something to do with this? (It registered a daunting 7.8 but, remarkably, caused just about no obvious damage.). I also found myself considering the fact that one of the odd themes of my life has been that I often end up living at a significant distance from loved ones.  I state this fairly matter-of-factly because, well, it's just one of those things; for the most part, I've become accustomed to working with the dynamic, even - dare I say it - to appreciate various aspects of it. 

Every so often, however, distance renders a gal a little wistful! 

The following poem speaks to that - (my harbourside house sits directly opposite the Otago peninsula with its memorial to an unknown soldier; this poem lay quietly in an incubation chamber for some years before finally making its way onto the page.)


I so don’t approve of war, soldier, but
every morning, come what may, I salute you
from my bathroom window. If I could I would
fling stepping stones into the harbour, anchor
a boardwalk into the sandbar, re-orchestrate
the tides. But boats would run aground, soldier,
and gulls be dazed by the rock-solid obstacles
they’d find in their everyday
path of flight.

I so don’t approve of war, soldier, but
every afternoon, as circumstance dictates, I greet you
from my bathroom window. If I could I would
walk on water, trail kelp and cockles
up the banks, join you for a picnic
and sweet, idle chatter on your hill. I’d lay you
down, untie your army-issue boots, let breathe
your tired feet. I’d put you in direct contact
with air and ground.

I so don’t approve of war, soldier, but
every evening, as night follows day, I light a candle
and blow you kisses from my bathroom window. If honour
and proximity allowed it, I would invite you
in. In the measurable distance between there
and here, you and I have already seen the worst
and best of each other; you from where you stand
on the raised eyebrow of your hill, I
through my mirage of water.   



  1. The soldier is smitten, I'm certain, and damning his iron carapace. Thanks for sharing that achingly lovely love letter. And (non sequitur?) save the eels indeed!

  2. Well done with the poem - and it was great to see it in the paper.

    Careful what you wish for - with all these earthquakes it seems the plate our island is sitting on is trying to float off somewhere else to join back up with the rest of the world!

  3. Yes it was great to see the poem in the paper. It's a great poem. it'll be one of your party pieces, I'm sure!
    I can understand what you say about the distances.
    The world is round; maybe that helps?
    Eels and donkeys - so cute.

  4. Hi P, PC, K & AA - let's assume our Islands will remain afloat on their (un)even keel... that this dynamic is part of their particular energy and uniqueness.

    As for eels... Well, yes, they're probably not the most obviously lovable creatures, but one can def. admire them for their tenacity and cleverness!

    And, Kay - the fact the world is round and we're all under the same sky definitely helps, thanks! (I know you know about this, too. x)