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Adam and Eve, without serpent
or guile, all night the river duetto,
voices that were steps and stairs.
Those smallest rapids in the gorge
spelled out sleep for jittery timbers,
lulling coves and sandbars.
Sang, right through the night, just loud
enough to tell they kept their distance
from your doorstep which was
a pair of honeysuckle trees,
Adam and Eve left and right of the path
which you took, to rinse a bucket of washing,
where we lifted any bucket of water.
We drank the last light.
And sank the last of the whisky,
letting the fire go blank.
Indefinite as smoke upstream,
a stag roared. Nightfall,
a truckload of kids cruised the road
spotting for possums with a .22,
but went off before long,
maybe to tickle trout.
We also, we were illicit, apart from
our eiron’s habitual domain,
vulnerable. Whatever anyone means by
life is not in our hands. You are lived
by. Most of twenty-four hours
of each/any/every day,
when the little white faithful pills work
as quietly as the sisters
at the hospital of Mater Misericordiae
where they shot you full of gold
salts, copper salts, salts of tears
not without failing.
How, elementary, is your will free?
The malformed path ended at
those honeysuckle trees, rewarewa.
The river’s name rightly is Waiata.
Vulnerable, we could not
distinguish good from evil. Our
sin was original. It was content.
Editor's note
Idyll : first published in Poetry Australia 41 (1971), 9; also in The Seal in the Dolphin Pool and Selected Poems ; camping holiday in the Manawatu; eiron : the term irony is derived from the Greek eiron (dissembler); Mater Misericordiae : hospital in Auckland, now called Mercy Hospital; shot you full of gold/ salts, copper salts : Mary Stanley received such treatment for rheumatoid arthritis; rewarewa .: tall tree known as the New Zealand honeysuckle
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