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The Winter Solstice

New Zealand: June

ISSUE:  Winter 1960


It is a silent night. In it the moon
Half-full, sliced on the right, slides down the sky,
And the night above me flutters its wings of stars
Like a thrush
                            raven-black and flecked with white.

Flat on its plain, the sleeping city admits
The half-moon lurking at the thrush’s heart,
And this moon’s reflected image appears in streams,
And against the snowed flank of those distant Alps
Where its perpetual night-song echoes.


It is a singing night, in which
The night’s thrush-heart peals to the hills
And echoes of daylight gather in every patch
                                                of pealing water; 
Ringing with changes as the winter change
Transforms the plains with frost.
The wall of peaks opposing
The city which understands no song
Sounds with the din of celestial music,
Attacked by that Joshua of the heavens,
Who rings the town with his silver trumpets.


There is no native stirring
Whose eyes can comprehend.

Only the alien, tuned
To his strange climate,
Leaving behind his summer,
Hears it,
                     the shining clatter of this moon,
The dulling echo of dim streets and of buildings
Grey and mined of light,
                        or the sharp retorts
Puddle and frost and alps return to it.


At the mid night of these halcyon days,
The year turns its back and listens ahead
For the coming finches of sunshine;
                      turning toward summer;
A deaf ear in the night returned
To the brooding thrush whose egg the moon
Rolls out from her tail
                      lopsided down the sky
And will break out of being with daylight,
Shoot from its shell
                       the phoenix of morning.
And the ashes of this city pass to ashes,
                        and the year moves.


         As I watch,
The speck-breast night broods on the seeded land.
And the frost covers and chills
                               puddle and thatch,
Silvers the ashes of fields and tombstones of roofs.
The mountain echo melts
                                and beyond the plain
Its trills run down in silence.

The fledgling city sparkles in its nest,
              No tunes in its throat,
No appetite but hunger.


The night grows roaring
                  somewhere a radio
a car turns upon shingle
a train is shunted
                  a cock crows
far from morning
a human noise does something
                  in the dark
I listen to the moon
                  but it is falling


All continents seem beautiful, but strange.
Yet nowhere wholly the moon echoes in vain
This bright song of the sun.
             Things gain their colors,
To break the day’s as the new day breaks the year’s
             Deep midnight, as the city lightens
Before the dawn returns, before day break;
My silver wonder gilding with delight.


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