Without serpent or guile
Subject: A Token Poem?
I was a Marxist as a very young man - given that my father had been a Wobbly, as so many seagulls had been, it might almost have been considered an act of rebellion. One day late in the war (it was a hot day, even for Fiji, so I was sheltering in the storeroom, guarding our provisions) I was reading Lenin's Imperialism, reading about the South Sea colonies, when the thought suddenly occured: this bloke doesn't know what he's talking about. How about a token poem?
Yours in earnest,
Adam and eve, without serpent
or guile, all night the river duetto,
voices that were steps and stairs.
Those smallest rapids in the gorge
spelled out sleep for jittery timbers,
lulling coves and sandbars.
Sang, right through the night, just loud
enough to tell they kept their distance
from your doorstep which was
a pair of honeysuckle trees,
Adam and eve left and right by the path
which you took, to rinse a bucket of washing,
where we lifted any bucket of water.
We drank the last light.
And sank the last of the whiskey,
letting the fire go blank.
Indefinite as smoke upstream,
a stag roared. Nightfall,
a truckload of kids cruised the road
spotted for possums with a .22,
maybe to tickle trout.
We also, we were illicit, apart from
our eiron's habitual domain,
vulnerable. Whatever anyone means by
life is not in our hands. You are lived
by. Most of twenty-four hours
of each/any/every day,
when the little faithful pills work
as quietly as the sisters
at the hospital at Master Misericordiae
where they shot you full of gold
salts, copepr salts, salts of tears
not without failing.
How, elementary, is your will free?
The malformed path ended at
those honeysuckle trees, rewarewa.
The river's name rightly is Waiata.
Vulnerable, we could not
distinguish good from evil. Our
sin was original. It was content.
Kendrick Smithyman, 1974