Very well

Jade ocean and granite mountain. I am still. Known and knowing, heart achingly quiet. I should stay right here on these rocks, face turned, palms open. I should let things be. But I carry the madness of my mothers, a garnet red river in my veins. When calm descends, I can’t help but twist toward wild seas. I want to breach my banks, break free.

I have said this all along: I was not made for serenity. There are no tranquil waters in me. I desire, crave authenticity. I cannot leave illusions alone. When I reach backward like this, it’s for the promise of new.

And no, this is not really about you.

You, who responds – are you well? As if I could be contained by this small question and this small interest in such a large, unwieldy life. I have long understood I dive to the depths on my own. It is the rare man who could meet me there – and you were asked before I knew.

I do know. Whatever sensation I seek today, you have merely waved from the shore.

(I do not think you feel less, old friend – but I am certain I feel more.)


“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes)” ~ Walt Whitman
Mermaid Life

As if I am the sun

Where did you come from?

You ask me this once, at some hotel, some time, somewhere. Frustration, and something else wrapped around the question. A glint of admiration, perhaps, for my stubbornness, for the fight I’ve just caused, and the way it wakes you up every time. Makes your breath come a little faster, quickens your blood, and suddenly you’re alert, ready. Swimming to the surface of your own skin.

An island fished up out of the sea, I answer, as you slide two fingers inside me. Eyes locked, words exhaled, and the scent of moss, and dirt, and opening flowers as I arch toward your hand.

Everything is wild there, I say, as you turn my skin to a river.

Argument forgotten, won, when you place your fingers in my mouth, and I bite.

You laugh, and say – Apparently. Our eyes still locked – yours the colour of black sand, silver-flecked and shimmering, as if I am the sun.

Your eyes, I say, remind me of home. You would like it where I come from.

I like it here, you say, fingers traveling back down.

Leaving your safe harbour for a night, or an hour, exploring my body, and my stories, taking a queer kind of energy from this un-shared, uncivilised history. Before you return to that harbour, and its polite, still waters. To the place you came from, Mack.

An island fished up out of the sea. A silly answer at the time, details from a childhood story I barely recalled. Yet something of this myth sits with me, still. The idea of landscape retrieved. Or found. Bodies and stories, and memories breaking through.

Everything is wild there.

Even the prettiest flowers, you said, later in the night. And that glint of something else was back. A glittering desire for my wildness, when your own was set too deep in your bones. Calcified and covered over, ancient and forgotten – with mine right here, brand new.

I tried, of course, to bring yours to the surface. Nights like that.

Nights like this, I’m remembering. When your eyes looked like black sand, and I was the sun.

Wondering, now, if you might have understood something better than me, Mack. Wondering if the things you cannot keep might be better left, deep down.

Landscape at body, remember

Home (Part 2) – A land both ancient and brand new

During a recent trip home my town suffered a terrible loss when two young men and an instructor drowned after being washed out to sea during a coastal rock climbing exercise. I had been thinking all week about the landscape of my hometown and how it has shaped so much of my identity – and indeed my writing –  so when the tragedy occurred I wrote a little piece as a tribute to both the land, and the notion of coming home …

It is what I look for when that little plane begins its descent. The mountain with its near-perfect peak, and the way the hills slope down to our black-sand coast. As other landmarks come into sight – the distinctive Sugar Loaf Islands, the jutting rise of Paritutu Rock, it is how I know I am home.

When I tell people where I come from I always start with our landscape. We have a mountain and the sea, you know. It is something special to have both at once. Like those rare mornings you catch the moon hanging out with the sun, I have always loved looking from our coast to the mountain and back again. It feels so elemental.

It is a world away from my crowded city life, with her stagnant bay and shiny high rises. A morning run at home is something of a cross-country compared to my well-tailored track around my adopted city’s Botanical Gardens. I arrive home from a Kiwi run muddy and exhilarated because here is the other thing about where I come from: it is just a little bit wild, this place. The landscape is both beautiful and unpolished; it can make you feel a little ancient. And a little brand new.

I often joke that I come home whenever I am wounded. I come home to heal from love affairs, from issues with career and finances. From love affairs. I get my strength back, breathe in the fresh air and then head back to the city for more of the same.

But on this trip it is my town that nurses an incomparable wound, suffering from the tragic loss of two of its own and one newly adopted son. Three members of our community who I imagine loved the landscape as much as I do. Three men doing what so many have done before them, honouring the adventurous Kiwi spirit and celebrating our natural environment, before something went terribly wrong.

It is hard to know what to do. This is not just life going a little off course. You can’t just breathe deep and keep going. Instead you have to stop and sit with the pain. You have to take your time. The helicopters flying above provide an incessant soundtrack. Like the young man with heavy shoulders etching the word “Hope” into the sand we all feel the weight of it; everyone looks out to sea now.

Grief can connect a community; it reminds us of how closely we are aligned. But as we stare at the horizon it is a lesson we would rather learn in other ways. I can only close my eyes when the sea washes the word “Hope” away.

We are all here for just a moment. If we are lucky this life extends into twilight. But nothing stays. This is perhaps the only thing we can be sure of. So on this trip I do something I haven’t done before, I extend my leave to spend just a few more days at home. I take my time. I look from the mountain to the sea every morning, and I make sure to look – really look – at my parents. From dad’s blue-grey eyes to mum’s gold and brown I memorise the human landscape that I love.

I believe that nothing is ever truly lost to us. That like our landscape, we are a people at once ancient and brand new – in this way we endure and we revive. And with both the mountain and sea as our lodestars, I have to believe that in time we all find our way home.

Landscape at body, remember

(The above piece was published in our local paper last week and I wanted to share it with my readers here. Thank you as ever for stopping by!)