Home again?

The truth isn’t quite that. Not really. I’m not truly home again, I just wish it were the truth – at least, I wish that in one sense. But I also believe that anyone who, for many years, has lived away from where they were born and grew up doesn’t belong anywhere much, any more. Maybe I feel that because I’m a natural-born outsider – an observer rather than a belonger (I’m the most unclubable person I know). Or maybe I feel it because of a deep-seated ambivalence about the nature of identity – my own and others.

But still. Being back again on Waiheke Island (it’s out in the Hauraki Gulf, 35 minutes on a fast ferry from Auckland: North Island: New Zealand. As if you didn’t know, right?) feels like a homecoming. I love it passionately. I talk about “my” island – would that it were – and feel soothed and invigorated by it. I’m suddenly back to writing up a storm every day; I’m walking every early morning along the headland; I’m loving everything about it – the particular pitch of the neighbours’ “coo-ee!” call, the background buzz of cicadas, the bird song, the smell of the sea and the land, the curve of these hills.

And I’ve posted this poem before – two years ago on the Tuesday Poem blog, I find – but I can’t resist posting it yet again. It’s the poem I loved most when I was at Auckland University and it still holds such a powerful resonance for me.
But first, here’s a photo of the headland I walk around at dawn, with the paradise ducks flapping off in a panic, complaining that I’ve woken them, and the cattle staring moonily, and the sheep ignoring me. All great.

And here’s the poem. Enjoy.

TO AN EXPATRIATE
R. D. Fairburn

“Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.”
Jeremiah XXII:10

Pine for the needles brown and warm,
think of your nameless native hills,
the seagulls landward blown by storm,
the rabbit that the black dog kills.

Swing with the kelp the ocean sucks,
call to the winds and hear them roar,
the westerly that rips the flax,
the madman at the northeast door.

Dream of the mountain creek that spills
among the stones and cools your feet,
the breeze that sags on smoky hills,
the bubble of the noonday heat.

The embers of your old desire
remembered still will glow, and fade,
and glow again and rise in fire
to plague you like a debt unpaid,
to haunt you like a love betrayed.

And while we’re talking poetry, why don’t you look at what the other Tuesday Poets are offering here: if one of the posts on the sidebar mentions a Tuesday Poem you can be sure there’s a poem in there somewhere.

6 Responses to “Home again?”

  1. Penelope Says:

    Interesting coincidence for me, Belinda. I’ve just been writing a poem about Byron (and his wife) and was fascinated how Byron never returned to England after the scandals involving him drove him overseas. I’m not sure that he missed it though!

    This is a wonderful poem, and as I have just joined the Tuesday Poem circle, I haven’t read it before.

  2. admin Says:

    I’m delighted that you like it – I’ve loved it all my more or less adult life. And your own poem sounds very interesting, especially because I’ve just read Daisy Hays’ YOUNG ROMANTICS. Do you know it? I found it fascinating. Also on Byron, last Sept I stayed in a house overlooking Lerici, where Shelley and Byron used to swim …
    And lastly on Byron, maybe he didn’t go back because of his dreadful experiences in London streets after he was released from jail – being spat at, and worse?

  3. Penelope Says:

    Byron never went to jail, Belinda. Perhaps you are thinking of Oscar Wilde, whose ride through life was much more difficult? (Although he and Byron did adopt similar positions on some matters.). Byron was a hereditary member of the House of Lords, who spoke against the death penalty for the Luddites in his maiden speech. After the rumours of incest with his half-sister and sodomy with his wife became wide-spread, he was worried about mobs in the streets and left England, dying in Greece while engaged in getting together a military force to take on the Turks.

    Makes applying for grants seem dull, somehow…

  4. admin Says:

    Oh yes, of course – I must have had a rush of blood to the head on that one! I SAID Byron but was THINKING Oscar Wilde, although since the book I mentioned is not at all about the latter and much about the former, I was clearly in a muddle. Thanks for sorting me out!

  5. Elizabeth Welsh Says:

    Belinda, your post made me feel very homesick, but also very privileged to be able to call NZ ‘home’. Waiheke is beautiful.

  6. admin Says:

    I feel homesick myself, and I’m still here! It’s a strange emotion, that, isn’t it?

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