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Hard up against a grass slope
on the weather side, we tented,
a lane of flame trees seaward.
Swallows flew in that evening, playing
around the campfire smoke
close overhead in the slot
between trees and the grazed knuckle.
Took time, from their feckless
darting wheeling, to squat
fencewires uphill, watching us cook.
Every day, openhanded.
Nothing was to hide or be hidden.
Mercenaries would march baffled, barren
from Owhata; the harbour is impoverished,
near as you can get to useless,
except for giving pleasure.
Like that, how the year began.
At Owhata, waking by night,
hearing Maori ponies crop,
nervous that they might wrangle
with the tent ropes;
arguing, what to do with a pair of sows,
enormous pillaging monstrosities
suitable for myth,
which trundled away before daybreak.
On a shore opposite our morning
horsemen galloped away towards the north head.
The head is a complex wandering dune
where they pick lupin seed.
South down the coast agar is gathered
for laboratory workers who cannot know
at Owhata swallows nest on a rock face,
the old canoe landing place lies
plain, below a rain-smoothed
promontory fort. We were
minimal, like hogs and ponies.
                                                       7. 11. 70
Editor's note
January Tenting : first published in Mate 20 (May 1972), 33; also in The Seal in the Dolphin Pool ; Owhata : locality on southern shore of Herekino Harbour, west coast of Northland
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