The Return

The Return

And again I see the long pouring headland,
And smoking coast with the sea high on the rocks,
The gulls flung from the sea, the dark hooded hills
Swarming with mist, and mist low on the sea.

And on the surf-loud beach the long spent hulks,
The mats and splintered masts, the fires kindled
On the wet sand, and men moving between the fires,
Standing or crouching with backs to the sea.

Their heads finely shrunken to a skull, small
And delicate, with small black rounded beaks;
Their antique bird-like chatter bringing to mind
Wild locusts, bees, and trees filled with wild honey -

And, sweet as incense-clouds, the smoke rising, the fire
Spitting with rain, and mist low with rain -
Their great eyes glowing, their rain-jewelled, leaf-green
Bodies leaning and talking with the sea behind them:

Plant gods, tree gods, gods of the middle world ...
Face downward
And in a small creek mouth all unperceived,
The drowned Dionysus, sand in his eyes and mouth,
In the dim tide lolling - beautiful, and with the last harsh

Glare of divinity from lip and broad brow ebbing ...
The long-awaited! And the gulls passing over
with shrill cries;
And the fires going out on the thundering sand;
And the mist, and the mist moving over the land.


'The Return' from Mine Eyes Dazzle: Poems 1947-1949 (The Pegasus Press, 1950), © Alistair Te Ariki Campbell 1950, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Waiata New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 1974.

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Books by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell