for Shirley Grace
This winter, we’re kindling fires
with the world news and sheaves
of the brittle ti kōuka leaves
you tied with harakeke and stowed
under the house to dry.
We’ve made wood salads
from chunks of an akeake
that scratched against a wall
in the gutsy Wellington northerlies,
off-cuts of pine from a new deck,
fat nuggets of a sturdy karo
that was competing with a ngaio
and crumbling pieces of an oregon step.
We’ve tossed in Strongman coal
from the bleak West Coast,
scraps of orange peel, wine corks,
roast chicken bones, and last night,
(still grieving), twigs of dried rosemary.
When I clean out the grate
I think of your grave up North—
your ashes buried in the Pakiri sand,
the small, struggling pohutukawa
protected by a picket fence
and the wonky kanuka cross
decorated with the remnants
of the totorere shells
we used to wear as rings.