The Ballad of Waiorongomai
Vertiginous drop heart-stopping grope measured remorselessly by the drip of water gouging time in staccato echo, drumming the scope of years. All that is left of the whoring, the gambling, the fever lie graves of twisted iron marking abandoned tramways, distorted agony in metal gold's grip on tempted souls. Frozen in contorted hell, a smelt of fire, pyric excess still shudder in rusted shell. Stout infernal edifices shoulder the line of hills, hold vigil on encrusted incline. Scope of fear, tickle of madness fingers the scarred rock tracing a melancholy path through hideous bent rails and damp fern-lined enclave. In brazen declivities histories are entombed; the failing hand, a cryptic gesture, a lover's handkerchief mourns the miner's plight. Tears upon a crag, searching in a darkened room, despair for granite fever grinds dread on fragile hope, melds a leaden ambience in dusty curtained gloom. Envious death crouches in the darkness of a shaft, its shadow falls upon strong love; a raging conflagration struck between lure of gold and yearning heart, crushing weight on human flesh. Where I wander lie the hidden tombs of miners, no last rites to secure their rest, no priest's hand to bless their life; snapped in two by swooping death their home is in the wind. The Reckoning The earth whispered to me as I descended into her world, the damp loam obscured the track of the sun, its watchful eye in waving frond and winking bush; as the light of sky diminished an inward eye illumined my path; my feet made sure steps, brave in a growing darkness. In dim descent I breathed as one, in close embrace with unhurried earth. The cave of my mind flickered to life as if by an ancient fire; I knew at once the secret heart of soft betrayal; the machinery at work hidden behind acts forged centuries before, the knife of sacrifice cut a clean path unbroken across thousands of years and still carved the purpose of those marked by its driving blade born and living in this very day. Joined in the blade's signature, iron tongue ignited nameless hungers forced to reckon with the dust of age-old memories, caliginous in a vista of stars, long lost from the count of history. No map, but the footfall of firm pressed earth may guide me, and the forms of cave-born shadow cast by my rising inward fire. Interned by approaching night, kiss of cold earth, searching, the myth of ancient rites unwound stark and clear as I traced the cypher of untamed dreaming acts beyond recorded time; the smear of ochre on bone, the iron blade summoning the god. Who may break the spell? Who may first unbind the curse, the glamour entrenched in rock? Men have forgotten to read the grain; the tainted bother of a froward kiss sucked its tender betrayal, and from those lips hastily profess service to distract the truth from ever falling on willing ears cocked to the nocturnal wind. Who, like the owl stirred at night, may see the trick unmasked, and utter its shrill arcane note to echo through footfalls of time? Abandoned An Edenic place, cupped by ancient wind curving cavern and mountainside, its once inhabitants outlined in memory, ghosted silhouette by fire glow; burnished in coal-lit scenes, exiled to a vanished era, weighted by the burden of too many dreams to hold, spilt as gold dust in reckless streams that still murmur through ravines. What tales were woven under the broken chimney, what reminisces by the rusted grate? If I pause and listen in the mossy ground where lie the foundations of a tumbled bushman's hut, I might catch the echo of voices locked in brick and smoked stone, and seeking hope, give them tongue. The night is parchment; inscribed reveries scratch softly as the rush of an owls' wing. The Taniwha The wind in the eye of the crescent moon harbours a secret as old as hills; through gulleys and abandoned shafts soughs her flute-like lament. Trees know, bent across inky Stygian ravines where voices from long ago thunder in wet rock, and echo up eerie chasms needled to the moonlit skyline; black spiny ridges etch deep night to reveal where the Dragon lies. Her sinuous back formed the Ranges, her body contoured the land; scales of gold trapped in deep earth, forged in volcanic fire. Where she writhed, soil merged with skin, mixing dross with precious elements; her flesh was panned by miners' hands, her scales elusive as clouded stars, glimmered before the lustful eyes of men, to trick them with dreaming fugitive gifts, promises unkept like faithless love. Poetry background: All the poems featured here are poems on the themes of descent, the ancient world, gold mining and ghosts from the past, all inspired by my exploration of an abandoned gold mining town Waiorongomai – which grew into the place that is now home, Te Aroha. Many of the miners’ cottages and villas were transported by bullock cart to Te Aroha. The gold is still there, in the mountains which form part of the Kaimai Ranges. The jagged peaks are collectively named the Dragon’s Spine, and I think a Taniwha actually dwells in the laced gold veins and underground fortresses of the hills. The Taniwha is analogous to the Welsh dragon and is part of the mythos of New Zealand. Twitter: @destinyangel25 Quick bio: Elizabeth Barton is an artist and poet living in New Zealand, close to nature and free to create. Her art is in private and public collections world wide.