Hut near Desolated Pines

Cobwebs and dust have long

Deadened an old man’s agony.

The choked fireplace, the chair

On its side on the mud floor

May have warmed an old man’s

Bones or propped them upright

While his great head nodded;

Fantastical images may have stirred

His mind when the wind moaned

And sparks leapt up the chimney

With a roar. But what great gust

Of the imagination threw wide

The door and smashed the lamp

And overturned both table and chair … ?

A rabbiter found him sprawled

By the door — no violence, nothing

To explain, but the hungry rats

That scurried over the fouled straw.

A foolish lonely old man

With his whiskers matted with dung.

Since when birds have stuffed the chimney

With straw, and a breeze flapped

Continually through the sack window;

And all the while the deft spiders

Doodled away at their obituaries,

And the thin dust fell from the rafters …

Nothing but cobwebs and dust

Sheeting an old man’s agony.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell