For Samuel Richardson, 1856-1897
What damp day was it that drove you out of
Randalstown? What ground out your dream to
fly south, as far down the world as it's
possible to go without eating ice?
Who suggested that there was a place
no short sight could see, sewn into blue seas?
Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud,
beckoned you to her, young and filled with hope
of green land, swapping colonies to see
if England's hard hand would hound you there.
Perhaps that wasn't part of your thinking,
just a romantic connection I've made
to lionise you, lying in my heart
like a slow pulse searching for rootedness.
Maybe you were brash, basking in the
whole planet. You put it in your pocket
and went, surely walking, not sailing the seas.
Fair weather or foul were all one to you
who wound fate around your finger
pointing down a hundred years to me.
Heat pours from your grave high on Wyndham Hill,
migrating north until I feel you in
the rising sun riding the stage out
to Fortrose, carrying people and post.
Smell the southern winds, they are full of you
wrestling the reins along metal roads,
steaming, like your nags, with correspondence.
Your genes have carried to me more news.
It tells me that I'm older than you now.
What great-grandad could die aged forty one
and leave me here to reinvoke you straddling
the wide world of your dream rich heart?
I hear you singing songs guiding me home
through dead years keeping us apart
and strangers still. I shall return to Randalstown
to disinter what made you tread round half
a globe to gallop horses on Southland's plains.
I'll dig up your dreams and let them fly again
to far lands under mute arrangements of stars.
I shall still your ghost by grappling with it.