an extract from ‘Matakaea : of sea and stone’

Bernadette Hall  2014

as for the ship-wrecked sailors

they punched holes in zinc with a hammer and a nail and so wrote down
their names and the name of their ship and the date of her sinking

they hardened points of karaka wood in the fire to make a meat hook
for smoking mollymawk and fulmar and penguin and seal meat
they never let the fire go out (they had 20 matches)


Thin water fans out like roots through the sinking sand. How deep?
Too late to think about that. Her boot sticks. She wrenches it out.
Not all that deep. But good to clamber up onto the gravel mound,
to stand there, the sea tilting in around her. The big heavy swells,
the jumpy little breaks as the wavelets turn, running out of steam,
each bright peak splashing and leaping, the way the painted horses\
jumped up and out and down on the carousel at the bottom of the steps
in Montmartre. The little wavy horses running back now to the sea.


there’s a log washed up on the beach and someone, a child perhaps, has stuck
slim stones into the splits in the timber … there are shags flying low over the water,
a pied oyster catcher is calling pipit pipit, pipit, a tern is wheeling like an axehead,
showing off its white brilliance (how simply KM would write the finer details)
and I’m thinking about the thinking of the maker, the one who set the stones here,
the tall ones at the front, the short ones behind, each stone turned in the hand,
weighed in the hand and inserted into the log, the impulse behind that simple pleasure.

Bernadette Hall

Bernadette Hall is an award-winning poet who lives in North Canterbury. Her many books include The Merino Princess: Selected Poems (2004), and most recently The Lustre Jug (2009), The Judas Tree: Poems by Lorna Stavely Anker (2013) and Life & Customs (2013). In 2004 she visited Antarctica as a guest of Antarctic New Zealand; in 2006 she was Victoria University of Wellington’s Writer in Residence; and in 2007 she held the Rathcoola Residency in County Cork, Ireland. She was instrumental is setting up the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2008 and tutored there until 2010. She is now the Patron of the Hagley Writers’ Institute and guest editored the first edition of the on-line journal, The Quick Brown Dog.

Bernadette Hall’s Writing

an extract from Maukatere: floating mountain

Bernadette Hall 2013

caged and crafted

like Gregor Samsa

in Kafka’s Metamorphosis


who is there willing to glow

like the wet stones in the wire gabion,

like underwater pulses


the acolyte shows me a leaf

‘we were born on that leaf, on that shoot,

our family’, she says


‘and I am one of the best leapers’

how lovely to walk with my arm around her waist

‘I am my own conman’ she says


and she repeats it

like the blade of light

that repeats itself


as it leaps off coca leaves

into the river

‘so this is it, she says, ‘this is the gold rush’