The Saltonstall Family
The prolonged façade of velvet bedcurtains pinafores and sleeves
matched by the mother who is matched to the task of dying
and father—careless reprobate in black—severs the picture.
The elder sister fastens the younger by the wrist, warns do not interfere
with the red and white of it.
One intimacy too many—
the glove their father drops into his own mother’s pale hand.
Father’s hat is what will disturb the girl in later years it is too large
and this will trouble her the way the dead woman should
The way the too stiff baby in her mother’s arms should
The way the certitude of family portraits should,
unpicking themselves in airless rooms.
Taniwha at Whatipu
…I remember the bay that never was
And stand like stone and cannot turn away.
—James K Baxter, ‘The Bay’
Fiesome and button-gunny the awed tailors
chew their needles to see you borne out, weathering for beauty.
This is hard-earned sibilance.
The earthly mantle that comes with a hero’s death.
The chorus mares its black singing. From the shore
white-hearted celibates line up like tall breakers
crown for the pearls you hang in each ear.
The moon as celebrant divides the remaining hours into loaves,
makes oaths of stone as women do.