Thursday, May 15, 2008

Catherine Mair & Patricia Prime: THE CHINESE WOMAN'S HOUSEBOAT

Snake-like and patient, the white-faced heron waits amongst reeds at the river's edge – strike! an insect or tiny fish wriggles in the bird's slender throat.

on the outgoing tide
a log's movement

On the other side of the river, wetlands form a tidal lagoon. A pied stilt dips momentarily into shallow water.

Two girls echoing Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn sit fishing from a small jetty.

blue crocodile shoes
nudge the Uretara's surface

Nesting boxes are strung out across the inlet like upended matchboxes. In spring these will be full of nesting birds safe from predatory hawks, rats, dogs and cats.

a pair of black swans
fly into land …
sound of wing beats

The piece de resistance is the ramshackle barge with its picket fence and interior stairs leading to the 'fly-bridge', furnished with an ancient sofa and chairs.

cutting the mooring rope
boys push the houseboat
into mid-stream

floating on oil drums
the Chinese woman's hide-away
freshly tethered

A man carrying three bags of groceries meets us on the path. We stop to talk about the old woman's dream. He's lived here only a few months and we regale him with stories about local identities.

after launching
from the river snag
the shag's wake

by Catherine Mair and Patricia Prime
Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
and Auckland, New Zealand

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