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MOUNTAIN STOP
Downhill what’s left of the Armed Constabulary patrol
men don’t stand to arms, not wake their beat.
Long (they sleep late) are laid aside
the State Highway, who were definitively overtaken
by ambush. It’s not like
                                    Christopher
Perkins did or would have wanted to paint it:
but visibly, no kumara godstone
puts it at disadvantage, this enclave
among mountains which one habitually invents
peopled by enduringly children of mists.
North of where I came from
stones which have to sort with gods are roughcast,
toppling but not quite cast down
hill or dale, churches there pre-empt any
risen ground made to stand
over
any prospect – uplifted flat, the church takes
it, commands outlook, sect with sect, but
here in these hills is this site
which could stand in loco parentis
(Father, the first Father taught, forgive)
the dominant is reading from left to right
hotel/store/would you believe motel
                                                         superior to
a battered kainga of Tammy boar, rough Clydesdale,
junked Oldsmobile, kids loosed from schooling,
overweight kuia and slippered kaumatua
heaving up and easing down the grade
which takes them to/from the haulout
where MOW and Forestry tank up
in front of the post office general store tearoom
comfort station. Inside’s
an impressive armoury fixed out of reach on the walls:
a long Lee Metford, carbines, muskets,
some exotic Arabian or North West Frontier weaponry,
a few handguns padlocked and stapled.
Try to make talk about them, and get the brush off.
The boss man doesn’t want to talk,
"That’s only the half of them. There’s more out back"
as he flipflops off to see that the boys in front
aren’t milking the pump. Rain begins pock
marking a long puddle.
One thing for sure, Turuki isn’t going
to ride through here again; he’s been dead
a while since, somewhere over behind Ohiwa.
Things aren’t better than they were?
No way. No way at all.
                                                                                      25. 8. 83
Editor's note
Mountain Stop: first published in Stories About Wooden Keyboards; the setting is the Urewera Mountains inland from the Bay of Plenty, North Island; Armed Constabulary: a colonial regular army formed in 1867 from various settler militias during the New Zealand wars; Christopher Perkins: (1891-1968) English born painter, active in New Zealand 1929-1933, his painting Maori Meeting includes a kumara godstone: i.e. a carving with powers to encourage growth, fertility etc. found in kumara (New Zealand sweet potato) gardens; Turuki: Rikirangi Te Turuki Te Kooti (1830-93): Maori guerilla leader and founder of Ringatu church; children of mists: usually the Tuhoe people of the Urewera ranges; in loco parentis: in the place of parents; kainga: Maori village; kuia: Maori woman respected because of age etc.; Tammy boar: short for Tamworth; Clydesdale: draught horse; kaumatua: Maori elder; Lee Metford: British army rifle after 1888; Ohiwa: near Whakatane in Bay of Plenty
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