an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

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Tarot #01

The Stone People

On the phone my mother says
Think of all the stone in the soil where you live
Isn’t it—scoria?
Go for a walk and look at the walls outside houses
Made from rocks dug out of the ground in people’s back yards
All that volcanic rock—from Mount Eden, as it was before

On the phone my father says
When I was your age, in Australia
For months I felt immobile
Like I was dragging myself around
Though I always went to work

(In Farmers Blue Monday drove him mad on a boombox
And people returned hifi sets after weekends, claiming faults)

That immobility is dangerous, my father says
Too long without movement and it gets very tough
You need motion

In the early years my father took me to Mount Eden
Watched me careen on the flying fox
Months after I moved to Grange Road, he asked
Do you remember?

I hadn’t, the fox not visible on my bus route
Now my neighbourhood mountain and the one in memory fused
In tectonic violence
Past rushing into present


In memory my grandmother, the stone woman, lies in bed
My grandfather, plutonic, hides the truth of his wife

On the phone my father says
I’m grateful I’ve never been as bad as her
Never faced destruction in the way she did

I want to go to Iceland, he says
It’s volcanic there
And cold
And listening to Icelandic feels like listening to my past
I can hear those Scandinavian roots
The Northern England of my parents’ families
Was settled by the Danes

When you are deep in it, he says
You cannot see above the barrier
And when you are out
You don’t understand why you couldn’t see

I imagine a wall of stone
And I am in the pit like Joseph
The man in the Catholic picture books
In my grandmother’s back room (gone now)


In the shadow of Maungawhau I bless my metamorphic body
Slowing and hardening and loosening and moving quickly
In and out, every week, like breathing

The present point in a lineage of stone
Of mental difficulty, peppering the timelines like ash

What the phone calls really told me was
Bless the porosity of your body
Nothing short of a miracle, really
That a stone can live a rewarding life

In my thirties, or maybe forties, my father says
I had a realisation about the meaning of it all
I know it’s hard, he tells me
But you’ll see