Tag Archives: New Zealand

Brian Turner: Elegy for Peter Hooper

17 Dec

ELEGY FOR PETER HOOPER

(novelist, poet, teacher, environmentalist)

 

A grey day in Greymouth and a gathering of people

most of whom I’ve never met and won’t again.

There’s scripture, hymns, eulogies and that undeniable

finality that never fails to reduce me to tears.

 

Time alone will fill the spaces your going’s opened up

like evening shadows stealing into the valleys

of the Grey and the Arahura that you knew and loved.

I’d like to think Westland’s laureate will one day

 

receive his due but doubt it, for writing that conveyed

a love of place, respect for people and other creatures,

and an unwavering faith in the force of patient instruction

has never been sexy in a land where cultural cringing’s

 

enduring. Add to that work which celebrated natural beauty,

advocated continuance and expressed a desire for peace,

and you were always going to be swimming against the tide.

Peter, with your calming goodwill, you were that rare

 

sort of man we call decent if not saintly. At your service

I was awash with memories and regrets

while up and down the Coast and over the mountains

a raw wind blew, and bells tolled wherever I turned.

 

Shingle ground on the shore like pebbles in a crop

and the wind off the Tasman badgered the flax

at the top of the beach where you gathered wood often.

Offshore, pickets of rain were driving into a slowly

 

heaving grey sea. I know you hoped for a longer life

in your green-painted wooden house

on the edge of the forest a kilometre or more

inland at Paroa, a stream talking constantly

 

within metres of your backdoor. Instead a friend

found you dead several days on the floor

under your bed, and it all seemed tragic and unfair,

the stingy absence of dignity or justice that fate

 

decreed for you. Now, asking Where to go from here?

and What more could I have done? – the one a puzzle,

the other futile – I think of the people who admired and maybe

even loved you, too, and never told you so because we seldom do.

 

  • from Taking Off (2001)
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