Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

The loneliness of immigration

You’re not here

– To Marion

 

I

 

In the storm the woods around our home are bewildered,

The leaves snarling, tearing at the end of their leashes.

You’ve been away for a few days.

In this wind an arching, rustling autumn

Of whistling twigs, blades and stalks

Rip the guts out of the cloud-light.

This is how I miss you.

 

II

 

You’ve never understood what I want to do with words.

Reaching into earth with them to come up hard

Against the stone, silent as the space between hymns.

You don’t really get that I try to use words

To find the storm in things, make them yell with life.

No matter.

In our hard times, those bleak and bloody awful times,

Stuck in foreign places – China, New Zealand –

You knew the hunger of tomorrow swallowing us.

You’d stare at my forlorn face, these gritted teeth,

My tears and pursed lips like abandoned strangers,

Unwanted people dying on streets.

 

III

 

What you are is a burnt Zimbabwean garden

That’s learnt to flower again, here in the shade

Of pohutukawas: a strange name – to us –

For lovely trees here in New Zealand. Pohutukawa.

A word once awkward on our lips, but now part

Of the hearth you make of our tiny home

With your messiness, endless chatter, wonderful cooking…

Your scattered books, your love for our cats

Who teach us peace.

 

When you’re here,

That giant cradle of pohutukawas outside

Lowers their whispering sheets of shadows

Through the windows. Somehow,

I know they keep you safe in a way I can’t.

 

IV

 

Before today’s storm, you were gone.

After the storm, you still haven’t returned.

I mull around outside where mutilated branches

And leaves are strewn like fishnets

That will never catch anything again.

 

This evening is so still without you. Like a death.

God, it’s quiet. And I am so wonderfully lonely.

Then the rain starts simmering down again.

Still you’re not here, and I painfully am.

 

It’s in times like these that I can hear the earth

Is always swallowing. That’s what gulps us down.

The mud hints at something greater to be found

In the squelch, the puppy-suckling, boot-slog

Drumbeat of it all.

 

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