Millennia of silence and no rain

It’s in Antarctica, it’s in the lovely Chapel of the Snows. Outside there’s Roll Cage 
Mary braced against the katabatic winds that swing down from Hell’s mountain. 
Outside are the glamorous ice meadows. Inside there’s a young woman wandering 
around in her socks. I spend a long time looking at her looking a long time at the 
stained glass window behind the altar: the adèlie penguin, the wheat, the host, the 
wine cup. So, we’re both curious. It turns out she’s Korean, a science technician 
with poor English. She works with weather balloons, translating the news from the 
galaxy. I’m wondering if she writes it in Korean but maybe it’s just numbers. I tell 
her I used to be a Latin teacher. I have this she says and she hands me a piece of 
paper. The writing on it is very very small and I haven’t got my glasses with me so 
I ask her to spell out the words and I write them down in big crude letters on a 
page I’ve torn from my notebook VOCO TERMINIUM TUM ERIT. She smiles when I 
translate it I call it the end and then it will truly be the end.She wants to know if 
the Latin is correct. So then I have this weird thought that she hasn’t just copied it 
out, she’s actually made it up. I remove the second ‘i’ from terminium, now it’s 
correct. Here I am at the end of the world giving a Latin lesson to a young Korean 
who’s got very poor English and all the time I’m getting more and more anxious, 
frantic in fact. What if it’s a suicide note, what if I’m meant to be doing something? 

Listen to Bernadette Hall read ‘Millennia of silence and no rain


a white horse in mist 
a green horse in a tree 
a blue horse in the sky 
another in the sea 
and then there’s you 
and then there’s me


Bernadette Hall’s ninth book of poetry, The Lustre Jug, was a runner-up in the NZ Post Book Awards 2010. Her current project is writing a collection of short fiction but every now and then she falls back into the poetry trap. This year she has been working in Wellington as a Teaching Fellow at the IIML.

Bernadette writes: “Logarithim. The word comes from foreign territory for me, I have always had trouble with maths. I read it today as referring to a holding pattern, as a shape that is dependable and enduring. In a strange way, this odd little poem seems to arise out of the Canterbury earthquakes. That’s what I intuit. It’s as if everything has had to be rebuilt again, a kind of Garden of Eden replay. And the amazing thing is that a ‘you’ and a ‘me’ are still here. We’ve been given another chance. So above all the poem is one of gratitude.”