As we, that are left, grow old…

Worn brown slippers pause their shuffle
as he peers past his weathered reflection
to a face forever stilled
in a smile of sweet affection.

Her teasing laugh plays through his mind
like a well-loved vinyl record,
clouded with static and scratches,
but for that, no less adored.

Faded carpet leads to a breakfast nook,
set with a single chair
against lightly patterned linoleum cracked
with the rigors of time and wear.

Habit has him reaching for oatmeal
that he sweetens just a smidgeon
with brown sugar even though the truth is
that taste is yet another lost religion.

Twisting the knob on the radio,
just to break the silence that bears weight,
he rubs blacking with a repurposed rag,
then suit and shoes are donned, tugged straight.

Stepping from the car, he nods and shakes hands
with reflexive courtesy born of age,
and plays his part with the unwelcome polish
of repetition on a tragic stage.

The bugle’s melancholic notes pierce
a weary heart, but men are stoic
and do not weep, do not show fear,
do not shame medals that claim heroic.

Back home, he removes the poppy
and replaces the medals with respect and care,
and sits down to another meal for one
in his solitary kitchen chair.

Memories play to a soundtrack
of the drone of an engine and the crack of guns,
and he refuses to feel self-pity
for he was one of the lucky ones.

She spoke memories

She spoke of home in hushed whispers,
far away eyes caught on a memory of Christmas sparkles,
flashes of multi-coloured hues,
framed by snow that resembled icing
dripping
from a perfect story-book gingerbread house.

She spoke of warming chilled hands on mismatched mugs of
mulled wine, redolent with heady scents of cinnamon and
anise, sensuously entwined with underlying fragrances of
pine, roast potatoes, ham glazed with ginger marmalade, and
fruit mince generously soaked in brandy from a dusty bottle.

She spoke of hand-sewn stockings hanging from
a mantelpiece supporting an assorted collection of
cards stuffed with well wishes, above a fireplace
that crackled and popped with an authenticity conveying
warmth and tradition.

She spoke of balls of crumpled wrapping paper,
torn edges in greens, gold and crimson, interspersed with
discarded lengths of clumsily curling ribbon,
that told their own tale of thoughtfulness, of preparation,
of satisfaction and excitement.

She spoke of home and a scene
so unfamiliar
and yet I knew I’d seen it before in
a hundred movies and on
a thousand greeting cards so unsuitable
for my own holiday season.

18 ways to appreciate New Zealand

I

Far from where Hillary ‘knocked the bastard off’,
rise peaks that conquer the horizon,
beckoning the intrepid, the brave,
the fatally ill-prepared…

 

II

Some sleep, undisturbed by the passing eons,
while others hiss and belch, spewing molten rock
and ash to splatter and scar their slopes.

 

III

Taupo, youngest global supervolcano,
hides simmering tantrums ‘neath waters
stocked with trout, tempting fishermen
and complacency.

 

IV

Glittering black sands,
remnant from Waitakere
(cremated long before records began),
provide vivid contrast to
golden east coast beaches.

 

V

Rolling green hills,
dotted with the white and tan splotches of livestock,
send a soul-deep sense of peace.

 

VI

Small-town hospitality, local bands
playing gigs in community halls,
that brogue that strengthens
as you head south, and the simplicity of rural life.

 

VII

Civilised society with an English veneer
and a quirky sense of spunk and survival
in Christchurch.

 

VIII

Wellington takes no prisoners, with
a brusque wind and a taste for politics.

 

IX

Auckland fancies itself a careful blend of
high society, expensive coffee, smashed
avocado and nightclubs for those who overindulged…
on caffeine.

 

X

Wines, from Waiheke, Waitakere,
Marlborough and beyond… Sumptuous reds,
bold whites, and delicate rosés
to satisfy the reveller,
the amateur and the truly discerning palate,
no’ necessarily in that order.

 

XI

The commuter ferries from Waiheke and Devonport
just a few of the boats on the Hauraki Gulf,
‘city of sails’ no misnomer.

 

XII

Fishermen catch kai moana for dinner,
a staple of New Zealand cuisine
(fine dining meets fush and chups)
and embedded into local culture and lore.

 

XIII

Sampling Maori tradition,
barefoot on a marae,
surrounded by towering wooden sculptures that
speak of ancestors and times long past.

 

XIV

The haka following the national anthem,
an acoustic display of might rattling
the stadium before another All Blacks
Rugby World Cup triumph.

 

XV

Endless black skies that reveal
the astonishing Southern Lights or
the Southern Cross constellation amid
starlit heavens.

 

XVI

Moreporks and kiwi send calls through the night,
until dawn brings the plethora of birds
that dominate the aural landscape.

 

XVII

Imagination abounds in Middle Earth,
where wannabe hobbits sip ale at
the Green Dragon Inn and stumble home
to houses under hills.

 

XVIII

Adrenaline soars as bungee cords snap back,
rafts plunge down waterfalls,
and parachutes float
far above New Zealand.