Poem – John Ridland

Elegy in a New Zealand Country Churchyard

(After not Gray but Catullus)

Off the West Coast Road a third of the way from Darfield,
brother-in-law, they scattered your scanty ashes,
and though Beauty is not the be-all and end-all of graveyards,
this view of the Southern Alps through a gap between yew
is utopian, though it’s Nowhere you ever lived.

Driven to see it, I pass through your typical
New Zealand paddocks where sheep may safely graze
to the cottage and its grove of enormous trees
your father planted in your mother’s honour.
The underbrush has run wild since ’57,

when your sister and I, newly wed, stopped overnight.
Your father’s wraith, less substantial than a ghost,
may be occupying the wooden seat by the door,
while your mother’s face appears to appear in the window,
and what’s this noise! You, revving your motor-mower

around and around the grounds, stirring up the ashes
of dried-out grass, to be scattered by the blasts
of the Beastly Easterlies, and the Southerly Busters.
Can I wish you, Rest in Peace? Best continue restless
in the hearts of those who loved you and scattered you here.

John Ridland

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