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COROMANDEL
Subscribed to belief in a yesterday
endearingly local, somewhere you start from
or arrive at although you will not tenant,
a gaptoothed township is reviewed each dawn
by daybreak which comes across mountains,
works downharbour after fishermen
to exit over a documented gulf
westering into a bruising bad weather
or simpler gloom of a daily cycle,
committed (one feels) irrevocably,
in spite of all who try to attach prior
meaning and significance, to the minute
which is local and, in a sense, special.
Thus, resist the identity of kind;
Yet also, of particular difference.
Which, if anywhere, distinctly lies
in that circumstantial reputation
to which they aspire professionally
or as annalists of grassroots who can tell
(and will) who planted which lily clump,
who under it was begotten, was born, deceased.
You choose: they were not, are not, chosen.
History may be a malaise, at best perturbed order
but not discontinuous, least in respecting
passion which appears to choose those
whom it can victimize; and these
were not, are not, chosen. Quietness kills
more surely the letter than fevers the spirit.
It obliterates, so that instead of record
you are offered a disquieting striving
towards memories, supported by piety
with a few artefacts which have changed
almost imperceptibly their nature
unless most obviously. Their function
earlier discharged; by devotion, their dead
scarcely are honoured.
                                     Nostalgic,
a handful of romantic artists – potters,
painters, a brace of drinking poets –
at sunset loiter hopefully by the wharf.
Someone may give them a crayfish, may
put Walt Whitman ashore, initiate true
dialogue of community and person
impassioned, guaranteeing time’s occupation.
                                                                         17. 3. 68
Editor's note
Coromandel: first published in Landfall88 (December 1968), 385; also in Earthquake Weather; Coromandel is a township, harbour and peninsula named after a ship which visited in 1820 to take on kauri spars; which is local and, in a sense, special: allusion to a well-known and controversial critical principle of Allen Curnow’s: 'Reality must be local and special at the point where we pick up the traces…' (Introduction to The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, 1960, p. 17)
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