Port Chalmers

Port Chalmers

Photo by V.Billot

Port, Dogtown, Koputai, names good and ill,
you look outward to oceans, waiting for the world.

Cruise liners and log boats snuggle your wharves.
A thousand trunks of Pinus Radiata are matchsticks

piled before your crow’s nest lookout,
the channel a blue stripe down ruffled green fur.

Ships glide through the throat of the harbour,
models inserted into the glass bottle of summer.

Nudged under the crook of cliffs, a camel hump
scattered with draughty villas and stone churches,

where wharfies in orange overalls pop in
for a flash coffee, or pie from the dairy.

From ships we live, proclaims your bronze plaque:
and now in place of wool and frozen mutton

are megacubits of golden butter,
and the determined tramp of tracksuited pensioners

embarking from the Princess of the Seas.
Steam curls in fluffy ventings from the flanks

of your looming woodchip mountains,
while the permanent hum of industry pervades you,

wasp yellow diggers growling across yards,
lanky straddles speed-looping the terminal with boxes

to stack and stow in perpendicular precision.
When I was twenty, buzzed on magic mushrooms,

we walked around the fence to Back Beach,
watching giant machines in shadowless glare,

feeling the subterranean drumming
of a goods train clambering through your tunnel.

Now a bark and a cough as monster trucks change down
on George Street, where crusty old hands

mix with tryhard metropolitan newbies, and cultural tourists
wandering the retro boutiques and studios

where bohemians assemble in creative endeavour.
The grey page of evening is inscribed

by the querulous drone of free noise guitar improv,
the demented squawk of a feral rooster,

and the clink of beer bottles from the rugby clubrooms.
The channel lights wink the way home

in a cheery salute of green and red.

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2 thoughts on “Port Chalmers

  1. Knowing Port Chalmers a little, Victor, I enjoyed the way you captured some of its character here: I’ve seen that blue stripe down the green fur, those models inserted into the glass bottle of summer. At the same time, it’s not necessary to know this particular port to feel the life blood of shipping and industry flowing through your lines. I’ve read the poem several times now and like it a lot.

    Like

    • Cheers John – you probably see I have a bit of soft spot for the place – have spent a fair bit of time there and in other ports over the years as part of my old job. I grew up by the sea in a little coastal village called Warrington a little further up the coast.

      Liked by 1 person

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