12 November 2007


Ruins of the woodpileShe crawls from the ruins of the woodpile
slow, still buried in winter dreams
a threat to the grasping hand. Up again
the wind roars in the poplar tops shaking
the apple showering petals. September
blossoms, October closes the door as it leaves
November blows in like a prodigal sun.

She rests, tries to shiver away the winter
and hunts for the spring in her step. Lambs
lose their baby faces, meat in unprepared packs
soon for the chop. Dogs rage at the wind
the unannounced car the cat a shadow
of a bird returning.

It's always the same in spring. Nothing changes
—only a different cat dogs another bird's shadow
passing. Another generation of spring lamb.
Another mother's daughter, crawling, slow,
still dreaming, from the ruins.


1. Ideally, this should be heard rather than read (as in "viewed"), preferably before
you've seen it written down.

2. I'm having trouble writing. Writing anything of any quality, that is, and I'm off
into the Ruahine with my brother soon, for a few days. If I don't post something now, another week of silence will pass. So, this will have to do. I drafted it a couple of weeks ago, tinkered with it a little, have decided to abandon it. Another fragment to shore against my ruins, I suppose.

Well, it began with a photo... I thought I had something more appropriate, her portrait, but I couldn't find it.

[Update, 8 May 2008: Added a portrait of someone like her; perhaps a daughter.]

Photos and words © 2007 Pete McGregor


zhoen said...

Oh, I do hope you fill this one in. I am intrigued.

Emma said...

It's apparent early on that this is meant to be heard aloud. I do hope you will come back to it, Pete.

pohanginapete said...

Zhoen; Emma: It's unlikely I'll add or modify anything. As I said in the note, I decided to abandon it — if I'd thought it was worth working on further, I wouldn't have posted it. If I do alter anything, it would be only to post the photo I seem to have lost. The poem will probably stay as it is, despite my reservations about some aspects. But, I'd rather move on; direct my effort elsewhere. Thanks for the feedback, though :-)

Peregrina said...

I like this, Pete, and it doesn't seem incomplete or draft-like to me. But then, I don't know what ideas or feelings the sight of her conveyed that you've not been able to express to your satisfaction. Because I always hear the sound as I read the words, I came close to your ideal presentation. I like the play on words - and knowing what the weather was like throughout the country during much of October, gave a wry grin at "prodigal sun".

I'm pretty sure I know who "she" is. If I'm right, you posted a piece, with photographs, last year, and I can certainly testify to the threat to the grasping hand. My experience was on the neck with just a baby. I'd hate to have a similar encounter with an adult.

Again I'm reminded of the eternal pulse of life - not for the individual, but for the species. Maybe the link is rather tenuous, but I found myself looking back at "How to Get Lost."

Enjoy your time in the Ruahine and come back refreshed.


pohanginapete said...

You mean the whitetail, Peregrina? If so, no, but I suppose she could be, although I'm not sure what whitetails do over winter, other than (presumably) slowing down because of the cold.

Good to hear it doesn't seem like a draft to you. I suspect if I worked more on it I could improve it a little, or at least feel a little more satisfied with it, but I'd probably just mess it up.

Peregrina said...

Yes, Pete, you're right. And I've had another lesson about not jumping to conclusions! I've sometimes spotted sluggish(!) whitetails in my woodpile in early spring and they're the only living hazard it has harboured so far. Mmmmm... Now I'm intrigued - but don't tell us until you find the photograph! ......Ah - just read the poem again without any preconceptions and think I may have the right creature this time. Will happily wait for the image to find out if I'm right.

Best to leave the poem as it is, I think . In time it might come to seem inevitable to you.


pohanginapete said...

I suspect you're right, Peregrina. :-)

butuki said...

I hadn't read the notes on the bottom when I read it the first time at the beginning of this week. At the time it felt somewhat "subdued" if that is the right word, and I suspect it has something to do with it needing to be read out loud.

I'm having an awful time writing and wanting to sit inside at all these days. Something is calling me outside and the computer just seems like a distraction. I hope your time (in the mountains?) with your brother whisks away the inertia!

I'd like to contact you by email to ask some questions about setting up the settings on my digital camera. During the summer I had an awful time with underexposed images and very grainy results, probably due to my insufficient understanding of when to change the ISO settings, the image size and quality, and other settings that I don't understand very well. Of course there is the post-processing, too, which takes a long time to master. I have yet to figure out how to use masks. I still miss film photography, and which had so much less fiddling in the field, which I intuitively understood a lot better.

How may I get in touch with you? My email is butuki at gmail dot com.

Thanks Pete.

pohanginapete said...

Miguel, of course; I'll help however I can. My email's pohanginapete at yahoo dot co dot nz (or just click on the "send me an email" link below the profile photo in the sidebar). I've finally made the switch to the full version of photoshop, so I, too, am having to learn new ways of post-processing. I trust it means I'm improving, although sometimes I think my abilities are regressing...

The camera settings really aren't much different from using film — just a few extra things like remembering to choose an appropriate ISO. If I had to choose two critical points, they'd be always to shoot RAW files (with or without embedded JPEGs), and to check the histogram. But drop me a line and let's discuss it.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

peregrina said...

Pete, this afternoon I was thinking about how we each interpret art (in its various forms) according to our own individual experiences. Thus we may end up with something quite different from what the author had in mind, although still valid in its own way, I suppose. In the poem, I'd latched on to the threat to the hand and, because so far the only hazard in my woodstack has been an occasional whitetail, that idea coloured my reading of the poem. Yet when I read it again knowing that it wasn't a whitetail, the light went on at the word "shiver". There are spiders that quiver (although I don't know if whitetails ever do), but "shiver" seems much less appropriate, yet I'd managed to ignore that because of my mind-set. There's a moral to the story there about taking care when making assumptions.

There was another example of different interpretations recently. In your previous post, Butuki says that the photograph gave him a sense of impending peril and he related that to his experiences. For me, it brought back the memory of a pleasurable walk with friends along the coast only a week or so earlier. We passed a low volcanic cliff with fascinating colours and patterns, and your image strengthened my wish to return some time with my camera. I suppose the point of all this is that an author never knows where the poem/photograph/whatever might take those who read or view it.

As for my thinking - well, I was making a couple of banana cakes at the time and my mind was so occupied with the above thoughts that I didn't notice that, in addition to baking soda, the recipe required flour that was self-raising, and I omitted to add baking powder to the plain flour I was using. Never mind. With a hot chocolate sauce over them those weighty banana cakes will make delicious puddings. There's a moral to this story, too...


pohanginapete said...

Peregrina, I'm delighted — something I wrote got you thinking hard enough to ruin your baking. Excellent ;^P

The two points you make are things I've often reflected on. I agree, too. It's hard to imagine a situation where taking care over assumptions might not be a good idea (I suppose extreme urgency of action might be an example); as for the different ways readers might interpret something I've written — well, understanding that and accepting that possibility has been one of the major benefits of this blog, for me.

peregrina said...

Well, Pete, that DID make me laugh - very loudly, too! So, you found delight by way of my ruined baking, did you? (Actually, it isn't really ruined, just diverted to another purpose and will keep in the freezer until we have a houseful of people here over Christmas and New Year. If there's any left over, maybe I'll send you a bit ... or do I mean a bite?)

Your posts often give me something to think about, especially when I'm doing tasks that involve my hands but require little mental effort. It's one of the pleasures of following your blog.

Regarding the making of assumptions: I think the point that concerns me most is the ease with which some evidence can be ignored so that everything then seems to fit an erroneous conclusion. In some circumstances, that's a path fraught with danger.


butuki said...

I just tried to imagine, if you have any kind of Kiwi accent at all, Pete, your replying "Excellent!" to Peregrina. Something akin to "Ixcillint", wouldn't it be? Somehow the word sounds much better said that way in that comment. You also got a laugh out of me, too!

peregrina said...

Well, Pete, I was still wrong about what had come creeping out of the woodpile, so I'm glad I didn't publish my second guess. I enjoyed that puzzle, even if I didn't manage to get the right answer. Do you think her mother will recognise her with the treatment you've given her?

Do only the females live through the winter?

(BTW, the ruined banana cake, with hot caramel sauce, made a delicious and filling dessert when I had four hungry trampers to feed at very short notice during the Christmas holidays.)