The joy gatherers
He loved frost for its honesty
and grapefruit with no agenda
but the gift of marmalade.
Some days he would sit in the orchard,
cigarette between yellow fingers,
and watch morning in buddha robes
come swinging the censers
“Two shillings in the pound”
the locals said, but the spinster who hired him
and the little girl who watched him
His hands held a codlin moth’s
knowledge of apple trees,
and under the beret that roamed his head
like a cat pawing its bed before sleep,
lay secrets that could make branches
ignite with spring.
Afternoons he lay on a burlap sack
on the mound of cuttings
and stared up at the canopy of blossom
where God lived.
On the other side of town,
a man shambled along the foreshore,
sack slung over back,
eyes fixed on the low tide mark,
the wobbling gramophone needle
of a song he could not resist.
The locals called him Spring Heel Jack.
Respected naturalist came later.
He died in his hut, alone,
on the Papahenga salt marsh,
Michael Hodgkins and his dog,
paintings by his famous aunt
blocking the holes in the wall.