On crossing the border, I always
change my name. A simple precaution
& you to guard my back
Cristo, Waianakarua, Mt Misery & all
I am heavy with loot
& disappointment, heading south again
down the soft underbelly of the island,
like coke cans on the Kilmog
& already the rain.
You are waiting, with or without
my blessing, in a blue room of pictures
torn from magazines:
Mother Teresa, Athena's
sandaled Victory, a sequoia forest, an avocado
pear, gazelles, two babies in a bath with a chimp,
Ayers Rock by sunset, Hare Krishnas
in their old gold, mud pools, a street kid.
a bruise on your cheek.
'Sit down & I'll tell you a story.
At Moeraki in the old days lived a prophet,
Kiri Mahi Nahina, who taught all the people
that Tiki had made them, not Io.
Te Wera, the warrior,
struck him down with his taiaha. Plugged his eyes,
ears, nose, mouth, anus with moss to contain
the heresy. Then he & his warriors ate him.'
Nothing is high, nothing is low, nothing
This is the song, Miriama, you sing,
doublestopping on my heart strings.
Written with characteristic amounts of both tenderness and toughness, Bernadette Hall's 'miriama' is a paean to friendship, going places together and shared history. While postcard-like fragments of memory and past events hint at darker realities, it is the intimacy and lyricism of the poem's voice that prevail--the writer and Miriama in heartfeld conversation. As Vincent O'Sullivan has written, Hall's poems are 'the work of a questing, generous, civilised mind, one that quite knows what its values are, and that says so in ways that are definingly unique'. Born in Alexandra, Central Otago, in 1945, Bernadette Hall lives at Amberley Beach, just north of Christchurch. A graduate in classics from Otago University, she is also a playwright, editor and has produced memorable collaborations with visual artist Kathryn Madill. Since the publication in 2004 of The Merino Princess; selected poems (from which 'miriama' is taken), she has produced The Ponies (2007), The Lustre Jug (2009) and Life & Customs (2013), all from Victoria University Press.