Smithyman's Christmas riddle
A RIDDLE AT CHRISTMAS
Say that I talk in riddles.
We shall, Caesar Augustus, if I talk
to you this Christmas Day, passing
by way of Jerusalem.
we travelled fast so shot through
Jerusalem, without recognizing it.
A school, but the school of course
was shut. A meeting house where nobody was
to meet or be met. We kept watch for water.
The courses weren’t good for much.
Settled, on a foreshore
littered with griefs, widows’ weeds
salt-blackened, sunburnt. Dream of
empire, and its drama throws up
latterday saints beside would-be
colonial capitalists hunched unsmiling
on totara rails at the auction yard.
Fishermen’s birds juggle what spoils
below iron shacks at the haul-out ramp,
smokehouse fumes taint a half mile
of air which no one wants. On groynes,
supplejack crayfish pots are
skeletal roses, so much junk.
So much junk, of the unprincipled
Mother, crossgrained cantankerous
ocean – dried out dories, timber workers’
cottages, warped plans for some dividend
seeding future, weathered carnal
reminiscences. Ocean sulkily fingers them,
euphoric vessels of powerfully malign
abrasive corrosive outpourings
hoisting and foaming over the scoured reefs,
skidding them to the slant of the beach,
muddling fine gravels with boulders,
sand with rivermouth silt, and jetsam
woods carrying into poplar groves.
Pioneer oaks higher comport themselves
fittingly. Obsolete, paper
mulberries peculiarly shimmer
lit by winds fined to their essence
which flow seaward from valleys
where total hillsides shake
down to their base streams, Caesar.
Here’s Christmas Day. Not yet have you
entirely, insolently, lost out,
miscounted the world, overtaxed
I stood melancholy for that other Hiruharama,
west across ranges and desert,
thinking of Jim who chose to settle,
iconoclast among Catholics, catholic
in an otherwise hermetic faith.
Friend of the junk heap, and its people.
7. 2. 71