harbour lights

my father’s blue eyes    shining

with tears he won’t admit to    and which

we can’t see up here on the after deck

of the Picton ferry    he is looking up    waving

from the wharf    we are waving back and calling

though we know he can’t hear us    all day

we drove to catch the ferry that is taking us

away    he got us there in the nick of time

triumphant now as the boat pulls out    green water

between us    up here    and down there

he waits until he can’t see us any longer

then tangles with rush hour traffic

on the motorway north    two semis give him

trouble but he pushes on    a cup of tea

at Levin then the four hours to home

a long day    when the Valiant pulls in

my mother gets up and they talk into the night

drinking cocoa    we’re over the strait and safe

in the next house on the journey to Canada    but

I remember my father’s blue eyes and the tears

we couldn’t see against the late sun    my father

driving north as we sailed south    the last time

I saw him    his blue eyes full of tears


Michele Leggott was the Inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2008-09. Her most recent publications are northland (Pania Press, 2010), Mirabile Dictu (Auckland UP, 2009) and a CD of selected poems, Michele Leggott / The Laureate Series (Braeburn/Jayrem 2009). She coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland.