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Living Here

primoridalcoast, billhammond
My friend Eleanor kindly emailed me Cilla McQueen's beautiful poem 'Living Here', which I couldn't find on the internet and don't have in any of my NZ poetry anthologies.

Well you have to remember this place
is just one big city with 3 million people with
a little flock of sheep each so we're all sort of
shepherds
little human centres each within an outer
circle of sheep around us like a ring of
covered wagons we all know we'll probably
be safe when the Indians finally come
down from the hills (comfortable to live
in the Safest Place in the World)
sheep being
very thick & made of wool & leather
being a very effective shield as ancient
soldiers would agree.
And you can also
sit on them of course & wear them & eat them
aso after all we are lucky to have these
sheep in abundance they might
have been hedgehogs — Then we'd all be
used to hedgehogs & clothed in prickles
rather than fluff
& the little sheep would
come out sometimes at night under the moon
& we'd leave them saucers of milk
& feel sad
seeing them squashed on the road
Well anyway here we are with all this
cushioning in the biggest city in the world
its suburbs strung out in a long line
& the civic centre at the bottom of
Cook Straight some of them Hill Suburbs
& some Flat Suburbs & some more prosperous
than others
some with a climate that embarrasses
them & a tendency to grow strange small fruit
some temperate & leafy whose hot streets lull

So here we are again in the biggest
safest city in the world all strung out
over 1500 miles one way & a little bit
the other
each in his woolly protection
so sometimes it's difficult to see out
the eyes let alone call to each other
which is the reason for the loneliness some
of us feel
and for our particular relations
with the landscape that we trample
or stroke with our toes or eat or lick
tenderly or pull apart
and love like an
old familiar lover who fits us
curve to curve and hate because it
knows us & knows our weakness
We're calling fiercely to each other
through the muffled spaces grateful for
any wrist-brush
cut of mind or touch of music,
lightning in the intimate weather of the soul.

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