Driving with Mother


This morning Karori’s lost in mist,
like my mother, dressed up for our drive
in a rum assortment of clothes,

including mac, dressing-gown, slippers.
I take her arm, explain who I am.
‘Darling, I’m so …’, pats her pocket

as though the word’s safely tucked in there.
Not Makara in this mist, through town,
perhaps, round Oriental Bay.

Past the cenotaph, Brooke’s lines inscribed
above the entrance – ‘sweet wine of youth’,
all that dash, all that misery.

‘Look, it’s clearer here. You can see Somes
Island, the ferry. And there’s a yacht.
blue agapanthus, Norfolk pines.’

Whose soothing voice is that? The sea’s grey
and curly, ‘gurly’ in the version
of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ we read at school.

‘I hate that,’ says my mother suddenly
of a brown house clamped to the hillside,
as though to stop it sliding down.

‘Look, there’s a green Morris traveller,
a woman jogging, a cyclist, a dog,
enough blue sky to make seven

monkeys a pair of pyjamas. You
used to tell me that on cloudy days
in Hong Kong. And there’s Kilbirnie,

where your grandchildren once used to swim.
We’re through Mount Vic tunnel; run-stealers
flicker at the Basin Reserve.’

Twist, turning up Aro Valley,
back to Karori, back to the mist.
The wind is tormenting the trees.

In through the doors, the grey cat, the undersmell,
the slow lift. ‘Lunch in the dining-room?’
‘Darling, it’s been …’ ‘See you next time.’


Harry Ricketts teaches English literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published over twenty books including literary biographies and personal essays.