Thursday, March 24, 2011


THE RETURN - James K Baxter

Came to the rock, asking forgiveness,
To humpbacked roads and the piddling schoolhouse
Where children hammered asphalt into holes.
Venus with her thunder slept
On tired dunes, in grey maternal
Macrocarpa branches. Rigid Mars,
Demon of the middle earth, leprous
Chewer of continents, was a boy tumbling
In a ditch with a bloody nose.
Came, how late and strange, to childhood's rock
Sealed against the comer,
Where once was unequivocal peace or pain.
Nostalgia, more precise than hope,
Washed granules of bright quartz
From layered seastone, honoured
The foul river, oared by ducks, flowing
From inexhaustible springs. Came
To cold farms, banks of seaweed
Piled on the coast by a spring tide.

I have no skill to set down
The perils of a late journey
Made to get back a full sight of loss.
Many miles from here my youth died
In northern warrens, stifled by invisible
Cloths of delirium and habitual greed.
But here the stars that shine between our bones
Shine as if at the entrance to the maze
From which none walk alive, on mushroom rings
Darker green than the sheep-nibbled grass,
On foam -belts of the southern shore, houses
Where some still trim the wick,
At evening, of a kerosene lamp, and watch
For sons and fathers drowned on the drumming bar,
Delivered from a false season
To the natural winter of the heart
One may set foot with the full weight of man
On shell and stone and seabirds skeleton.


Ben said...

Strong words, beautiful picture.
Thank you for the introduction to a NZ poet

Alden Smith said...

Hi Ben,

Yes, James K Baxter is one of our great poets - he led a very, very interesting and colourful life - poet, sage, prophet, drunkard - his spiritual journey led him to Christianity in the latter part of his life. His life revealed through his poems is poignant, strong, truthful, insightful and full of much universal experience.
I have his collected works and never tire of reading his poems.

I think I have blogged one of his poems entitled "To My Father" which in my opinion is one of his great poems and a testament to a positive Father - Son relationship.