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A song for the rootless

There is an urgent conversation going on among the leaves. The branches scurry, desperate to dock in bad weather. Twigs pelt about; the tall boles raise and swing their leaf-bright oars.

Our garden, the veggie field and the small gorge beyond are scooped up, swirled about by the gusts and the downpour into a bag, then tossed out again.

The raindrops are tiny envelopes bursting with starlight. They bring tidings of a pregnant, festival moon. A vegetable moon with her roots deep in an inky star-frost. Right now that white pumpkin is shrouded high up there above the storm.

All this rain-glitter are letters from the moon. They talk about an earlier age. Their scribbles burst, shredding around my squelching boots before my eyes can read them, or my fingers open them. They clatter on the stony pathways and mud, with more than a hint of a teasing chuckle before they vanish into earth-doors.

Majestic, smouldering, silver shoulders bowed, the rain gives up. Heads for the hills with a shimmer of defeated smiles. A drizzle fading into flashes of tiny teeth which say, we’ll be back. We’ll try again.

Perhaps a bugle-glint of lightning sounds the retreat. Look: slabs of wall-stone have come up again for air; so do the dripping, leafy heads of bok choy and carrot. Water-bloated arum lilies and daffodils nod, then thumb their noses. Leaves elbow one another.

Like a wizard on his staff, I lean on my spade near a shrivelled lemon tree I bore home two months ago. Back then, before I cuddled her from the earth, her branches teemed with buds, sang with the tang of citrus. Now she mourns her loss and will not be wrenched from her melancholy. Not yet.

This is even while I beseech her with spadefuls of fertiliser to learn to glow again with yellow globes like children of that moon somewhere up there, still clouded.

She won’t be doing that soon.

She pines for her home. The places her roots knew deep. Always something in me draws close to the rootless.


Brown’s Bay, New Zealand


Follow Rod on Twitter @rod_in_china


  • CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg Star: " Mackenzie's writing is shot through with humour and there are many laugh-out-loud scenes". Cracking China is available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle or get a hard copy from His previous book is a collection of poetry,Gathering Light. A born and bred South African, Rod now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, after a number of years working in southern mainland China and a stint in England. Under the editorship of David Bullard and Michael Trapido he had a column called "The Mocking Truth" on NewsTime until the newszine folded. He has a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland. if you are a big, BIG publisher you should ask to see one of his many manuscript novels. Follow Rod on Twitter @