James Ackhurst



Walking home from work again,
I see the moon shine on the bay

and it reminds me of this moment
in the living room back home.

I’d come home for the holidays
and it had been one hell of a term—

which one it was, I don’t remember,
nor why it had left me so worn out.

And somehow, I was on my own—
I think I’d come back on the train—

the house was cold, and still, and empty,
and wind played on the lawn outside.

And I would swear that I was suffering—
either from the accident,

or missing someone who wasn’t with me—
though who that was, I couldn’t say.

In a couple of moments, I’d be sitting
in the easy chair and listening

to a piece of music, which hit the spot—
though what it was, I couldn’t tell you.

But what the bay reminds me of
is when I got the CD out,

before I put it in the player
the lamplight caught it, and made it gleam:

it wasn’t a symbol of anything,
or even particularly meaningful;

it was really just another moment,
and it was beautiful, like this.



These rocks down in Otaki Gorge
are like the ones that Diss and I

once chucked in the river in Italy;
the stream that flows is stronger than

the one that flowed through Moreton Ford,
beneath the tree whose crooked branch

I used to sit on, watching things;
this little cove is like the one

down by the boathouse by the dock
I used to sit by as a boy—

and which, I remember once deciding,
would be my own, my special place,

a realm apart, a tranquil harbour.
Of course, that was before we moved,

before my grandparents passed way,
and the cottage, after lots of wrangling,

was purchased outright by my uncle.
I should have known: these things aren’t ours

and we can’t hold them; nor they us.
They may not leave us in our lifetimes

but we leave them; or I sure do.
Yet here I am, rocks under my feet

drawing this poem in a pool with a branch.
Whatever the river’s swept away

I guess it’s brought me other things
to play with or to comtemplate.

We tossed those rocks with all our might,
and here are more; these ones will do.



Heading to the coinage conference
I take a day off on the bay—

a day to see the silver dolphins
squeak and glitter and hang in air,

just like they do on the coins of Thera,
friends of Arion, another one

who had to sing to save himself.
And I go to Waitangi, where the fluttering sea

spreads out from the flagpost like a sail;
and I think of think of the forces that drag us out

from Hawaiki or Southampton
following Odysseus, or Captain Cook.

Is this what we’re looking for—something new,
a shore more green than any we’ve beached on,

a land unencumbered by memory?
Or is it innocence we’re seeking,

the coming home we’ll never tire of,
the Penelope we’ll never lust to leave?

Either way, we’ll never find it now;
we’ve come too late for purity.

You know that, too—your trip out here
was, you told me, like a final fling,

a final, hopeful, throw of the dice,
the final flipping of a coin.

And as I head back to the bar
I see the wavetops clink and shine

and watch the sun pour down onto
the bay a hoard of silver owls.



James Ackhurst was born in Calgary and now lives in Wellington. His poems have appeared in takahe and Turbine. Ackhurst notes: “These poems are part of a longer sequence of double sonnets.”