Monday, September 14, 2009

The Fencer Has Moved To Town


maybe in the big smoke, a chapter
or two in a book gathering
dust on a library shelf, who knows

Te Whiti, Longbush, the Admiral hill
places that young men left for the desert
before that for trenches, or Gallipoli
memorial halls that sweat with the need
of laughter, or any echoing crowd

even Gladstone kept its school
but petrol, post office, corner store
gone with gravel roads … yarns
or history, take your pick
talking to wrinklies

clearing sales
let us know the real news
seasons that keep coming at you

after the dams are dry
what can words do –
it has been another

Pat White Drought

Farming is not as agreeable or as colourful as it is mythically imagined.. It’s a serious business making a living amidst the vagaries of climate and land. Pat White is a Waiarapa farmer and poet. His area had several bad drought years. He penned a moving series of poems about the struggles his neighbours and he faced coping with summer aridity. This particular poem widens that struggle as it reflects the downsizing of a community occurring at the same time, part of the rural depopulation of the last century. I saw this first-hand at Little River, as the railway line closed, then the butcher, baker, draper, and post office, and so a vibrant place became empty and lonelier. With rural depopulation the schools consolidated accelerating the process. Drought in such circumstances is a frightful foe.

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