Sitting at Symonds Street Cemetery Bus Stop in the Rain Reading Siobhan Harvey’s Ghosts

Lincoln Jaques

I follow the ridge along the same path
the original tangata whenua dug with their feet
from the first waka they pulled into Tāmaki Makaurau.

Near the pinnacle the later settlers laid out
their first cemetery. The trees grew 
out of the skulls. Tombstone monoliths
with their stories now wiped away.

All separate; the Catholics close to the sun;
the Jews on the only level ground;
Anglicans given the good soil; the Methodists
out in the cold. The atheists and not-for-profit 
religions stuck away in a corner. 

Sixteen tangata whenua are interred here,
dragged up the ridge from the prison ships
floating up from the Waikato battles. Left 
to die after the salt drained their blood. 
Buried now far from their maunga.

James K. Baxter collapsed nearby here
a heart aneurism, a sighing of manuka
trees. He took his last breath in a stranger’s
lounge. All of us are alone in the grave.
They carried his body back to Jerusalem
but his ghost remains. His last confession
dismantling his poems like the termites 
attacking his coffin.

Harvey writes of Singapore; how they dug
up the bodies for the malls and underground 
rail. But we did the same here; from St Benedict’s
they scooped out the cemetery for the new motorway
hauling the corpses to Waikumete, incinerating the remains,
leaving the ghosts homeless. The white skulls glowing.

I close Harvey’s book. A gentle rain starts again.
Wet spots darken the cover like miniature sinkholes.
I am alone with the forgotten, the world dropped away.
Opposite, the cemetery pours out its darkness, streetlamps
light the underbelly of leaves. The bus’s headlights
illuminate the wet road; in a moment it’ll be gone
leaving me here forever clinging onto Ghosts.

Lincoln Jaques holds a Master of Creative Writing from AUT. His poetry, fiction and travel writing has appeared in journals and collections in Aotearoa, Australia, America, Ireland and Asia. He was a finalist in the 2018 Emerging Poets, the featured poet for the Spring Edition of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s magazine a fine line, and a 2020 Vaughan Park Residential Scholar / Writer. He lives in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.



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