Allen Curnow (1911-2001) - New-Zealand/Nouvelle Zélande - A Sight for Sore Eyes /

Photo by Marti Friedlander

 

 

A Sight for Sore Eyes

 

They wrap mountains round my eyes,
they say ‘look’ and it’s all what they say
where the colour, that’s another word is
deepest blue, and that’s the colour of
the wind, blowing this way, warm and dry
coming from the mountains, visibly.

 

I have eyes in the back of my neck
too, the sun is mumbling the day’s news
over my head. In so many words.
My morning bath was warm, out of a tap.
This garden is just one year younger
than I, ‘girdled round’ five years ago

 

with six-foot galvanised iron on
rimu posts, the sawn timber elsewhere
supports the Number 8 fencing wire
with one barbed strand, a little rusted.
The new vicarage is a ‘bungalow’,
the veranda faces north by west,

 

casements are fashionable magic
again, since the double-hung sash went
out, opening on the forms of pain, of
mumbled words, mountainously pronounced.
Too small to see over, I can thread
my line of vision through a nail-hole

 

in the iron. I give it a tug.
The mountains have shifted at their moorings,
shudder and heave clear. The biggest wind’s
in that quarter, it loosens the snows,
the Green Road is under water, old
Mr and Mrs Troon in a boat

 

are ‘taken out’ repeated in a dream
of the Troons, the Troons! What have I done?
What are the Troons doing ‘taken out’
in a boat in the dark up Green Road,
old and ugly and wet? The wind was
never so dry and warm or the smell

 

of sheep so sour or the dust so thick
in the macrocarpas. The mountains
are the colour of wind, the highway
north is a pillar of dust by day
half-blinding riders and dogs, westward
the river still rises. My mother

 

bathes my eyes with boracic, she ties
up torn dianthus, delphinium, phlox
wasted on the alluvium the storm-
waters have been scraping seaward since
the sun mumbled the first implanted
word. My mother grows it all from seed.

 

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Commentaire de Ruth Bourchier le 19 décembre 2010 à 11:37

Very evocative for a Kiwi, this Alan Curnow poem, but as it's fairly culturally specific it must be a challenge for a non native English-speaker, or indeed anyone who isn't a Kiwi, to understand.

When I was little I spent a lot of time in a macrocarpa hedge we had between our house and the neighbours'. I can still smell it in my mind, like a cedar smell, and can feel the resin sticking to my fingers and, to the despair of my mother, to my clothes. Macrocarpas were often used to form wind-breaks around farms. Number 8 wire has become a cultural icon and is symbolic of Kiwi's 'debrouillardise'. It is primarily used for making fences on farms but people use it for all sorts of other 'bricolage' and now there are even art competitions based around the use of Number 8 wire. We talk about people having a number 8 wire mentality.

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