Poem — Jan FitzGerald

The joy gatherers 

1

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

of sunlight.

 

“Two shillings in the pound”

the locals said, but the spinster who hired him

and the little girl who watched him

knew better.

 

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.

 

2

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.

 

Jan FitzGerald

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