Tuesday Poem: ‘Mt Tarawera’ by Paula Green

Mt Tarawera

First the schoolhouse, then the henhouse.
This terrible darkness swamping down.
What do the hens make of me coming to roost?
And then the blazing light, the balls of fire spewing
to the heavens, the mud and ash vomiting down;
my stranded legs and stranded arms.
My thoughts unable to move beyond
the columns of steam and fiery scoria
that punch the sky – to find the life that goes on.

There are the explosions and the rumbles
as though a thousand ships have beached
and are smashing on the rocky
threshold of the henhouse.

Not like you might think,
the hens are shocked
into a spooky silence.

There were quite a few poems in Paula Green’s new collection, The Baker’s Thumbprint (Seraph Press, 2013), that I thought would make a great Tuesday Poem. This poem in particular felt right because it so perfectly captures the moment of the mountain’s eruption. I can feel the fear of the person in the poem, and experience how their limbs and mind stop working. They hide in the most humble of structures – a henhouse – maybe because it is dark and hens are comforting. Although the voice in the poem is not overtly old fashioned, it has a certain primness, and that makes me think they are the school mistress of the “schoolhouse” in the first line. For a short and relatively simple poem, it has a lot of richness.

The Baker’s Thumbprint is Green’s sixth collection of poetry for adults, and her first to be published by Wellington boutique publisher, Seraph Press. I went to the launch of the book a few weeks ago, and have also reviewed over on the Booksellers blog.

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

One thought on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Mt Tarawera’ by Paula Green

  1. A great poem to share, and I also really like your commentary. I had not thought about the ‘primness’ of the voice — but you are right. The quiet of the hens at the end lingers long after one has finished reading this poem. Always admire Paula’s work.

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