Spring in the Land of Light
languishing in hammocks tied to the mangroves
canvas boatmen tell me parts of their story...
"We came for a year and stayed fifty."
Small enterprises beginning on the flats,
half crabs shifting house, tidal winds
drawing out a wrinkly sun,
a folded bath mat on the linoleum.
"Ships have been made here over five hundred years
long trees knocked down and rolled to the water."
Soil followed, slipped between palms,
blocking up the estuaries, paid out farms,
landlocked and roadless, a kingdom for de Thierry.
"They signed the Treaty here too, a second time,
in Mangungu Methodist Mission House and cemetery,
the rules then, that you could keep what you cut out,
the Treaty being the biggest saw of them all, and still is."
I ask after their captain, another McDonnell or White,
divided time between timber and spirit, disappearing
promises stuck in the saltmarsh, sulphur and sawdust,
still leaking poison into the harbour, the old currents.
Their voices are bitter from the salt but the sun remains
high above trustees of Tane working in the forest again,
rebuilding their land with enough room for more sailors,
first beached in the mangals, now waiting on a tide,
their release and ours turning with a new season.