The Return

And again I see the long pouring headland,

And smoking coast with the sea high on the rocks,

The gulls flung from the sea, the dark hooded hills

Swarming with mist, and mist low on the sea.


And on the surf-loud beach the long spent hulks,

The mats and splintered masts, the fires kindled

On the wet sand, and men moving between the fires,

Standing or crouching with backs to the sea.


Their heads finely shrunken to a skull, small

And delicate, with small black rounded beaks;

Their antique bird-like chatter bringing to mind

Wild locusts, bees, and trees filled with wild honey —


And, sweet as incense-clouds, the smoke rising, the fire

Spitting with rain, and mist low with rain —

Their great eyes glowing, their rain-jewelled, leaf-green

Bodies leaning and talking with the sea behind them:


Plant gods, tree gods, gods of the middle world … Face downward

And in a small creek mouth all unperceived,

The drowned Dionysus, sand in his eyes and mouth,

In the dim tide lolling — beautiful, and with the last harsh


Glare of divinity from lip and broad brow ebbing …

The long-awaited! And the gulls passing over with shrill cries;

And the fires going out on the thundering sand;

And the mist, and the mist moving over the land.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell