A Poetry Showcase from Elizabeth Barton

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?


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.

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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