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Three years now, pottering the east
coastal parts of our northern peninsula
I have gone wanting, to find once more
Limatula maoria, a file shell.
Alive, the animal’s distinctive –
swims upright, unique when crawling
(the hinge end rearmost), altogether
lacks fore- or hindsight. Not for these or like
admirably nonconformist reasons
I want it. Nor acquisitively,
the collective itch. I don’t plainly know
why I want it so, to find
this shell, the experience of finding
as much as the thing found, unless
to be reassured, "This is still possible,"
such assuring, such recovery, so formal
a purity, singularly white, a tone
and an accidental, shape which exceeds
calculating. Of sightless chance,
a mathematic.
John, a professing Anglican,
may hold Limatula a comfortable word.
In a way, it is as well for me. Meanwhile,
I have wanted also beside Lake Pupuke
to see an Australian coot, which is not
naturally as vulgar as it sounds. About twelve
years since coot were reported.
If they, if one of them, should
appear, it would be comforting.
Visiting in Quebec I was taken
to a reasonably isolated lake,
hideaway for diplomats and academics.
I should have liked to bag an ambassador,
even a minister or mere commercial attaché.
More satisfying would have been a loon;
thereabouts loons are said to be rare.
That day I found only an allergy,
to poison sumac
                          a collective itch of all
too common weals, latterday mode of res
publica, which we underwrite.
In more forms than one, more than one.
                                                                                      11. 10. 70
Editor's note
Wanting : first published in The Seal in the Dolphin Pool (1974); Limatula maoria : the little file shell; John : Professor John Morton, biologist; sumac : Canadian plant (Toxicodendron vernix), grows in swampy ground, has brilliant autumn colours
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