Lake Otamangakau

I The roaring of Te Whaiau intake weir
Intrudes as sleep eludes again
To soar across the lake
On white-tipped, swan-wide wings.
A defiant wild cat’s call, a tuneless howl
That crashes through these nylon walls
Which stem the thrust of night,
Comes taunting in and curdles dreams,
Itching in the seams of somnolence.

II Awake, aware in tented night,
A flax bush shuffled glissé tread
Of frond on frond and seed-pod prattle
Marching on the fractious wind
Surrounds the tent, and lake, and night.

III Otamangakau,
Swamphen sanctuary in raupo days
When mangatoetoe stalks were lances
Massed to hold the mountain’s fire
And flax grew greedily in this hollow.
Otamangakau, the anglers bowl
Where fledgling streams enticed here mingle:
Moaning through the pumice tunnels
Roiling in the concrete tumbrel
To spend their youth in sluggish flow,
Alpine children named like music;
Naive, enchanting Whakapapa comes resounding
From its ski-slope, snow-fed quarters,
Mangatepopo, soda waters, adding basso tones
In concert from the cratered face of Tongariro,
And sprightly Wanganui frolics over lava tangles
Heedless of its sluggish, adult reaches far below.

IV A statue in obscene taste, the dredge
Which gouged the channel and disgorged the levee
Mutely curses all who pass; a monument
Abandoned, a Trojan horse reviled
In the graceful sweep of Te Whaiau canal:
But the promise of these waters draws me past this chancre,
Its gaunt squat shell invites no second glance
When the silver phantoms deep in the greenstone lake
Dance in my eyes.

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Lake Otamangakau