Michele Leggott


apple scent     a coastal stronghold
for the angel band     evangels
in a wave cloud and the little parrots
whirling up above the sound
of hymns hoes and the audacious
book of prophets old and new
more trouble there shortly
but for now the steep cove     metaphor
of outstanding grace     hanging on
for dear life and hoping     karrakea, atua
the signs could be relied upon

Ruth Ross went to Rangihoua
with her sons     whose sharp eyes
found rose foliage on the grass-covered lip
of a house-site just above
the shingly beach
     it was sweet briar
all right     Te Mihanere     missionary rose
first-comer     needle-sharp eglantine
the man from the Alligator saw it 1834
at Paihia     an impervious hedge
around the chapel     mixing its perfume
with the breeze     the man from the Beagle
wasn’t about to go down that path
but mentioned hedgerows in abundance
Richard Taylor saw it in the ruins
on the hillside at Oihi     Mrs William White
watered it on my three darlings’ grave
at Mangungu     these were the sightings
Ruth Ross made     and grubbed up
pieces of root from the vanished house
for transfer to her garden     marvelling

at the fool or rogue who abandoned
those first mission settlers
on the precipitous and barren hillside

so much for grace     it was Ruth
who got some of the old roses
from the graves in Grafton gully
just ahead of the bulldozers putting
the motorway through     field collection
and it was Ruth whose digging
in the text of Te Tiriti began its
revisionist history     her papers
are at the Museum     perhaps the rose
has more to say     perhaps we should
search further in the mission garden
or near the shingly beach     perhaps
there is more to do

who’s this kid     one of six
remembers walking out to a farm job
at Takatu     dusty white road
enormous hedges     fragrant     full of bees
looked like they’d been there forever
could have been Anais Ségales
the rosy-purple Gallica     to be found
bordering many back roads in Northland
its pinky-purple flowers gray with dust

maybe that one     and skylarks up above

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