Two Double Sonnets for Catherine Inspired by our Recent Trip
to Various Sites Around Golden Bay with a Local Pakeha Guide


Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back, 
partly because, I’d been there before; 

after a while, it feels like the only 
thing you get from it is loss: 

every lover is less a love, 
just like every location is less of a home. 

At least, that’s how I sometimes see it; 
at other times, it feels as if 

each place has different friends for me 
and every move brings a different home. 

It’s all about how you take it, Catherine; 
and I’m not sure how you get that right. 

I could tell you how it’s helped a lot 
to remember what my teacher said 

when he said you can think of coming back 
to the breath like a kind of coming home; 

I could go on about Odysseus, 
whose homecoming was only complete 

after decades of wars and wanderings – 
not to mention loss of friends, and loves. 

But I think the only sound advice 
is to keep an open mind, and stay 

alive to moments such as these, 
driving up a winding road 

10 000 miles away from home, 
in a place I’ve never been before 

and on the stereo, the cheesy 
music singing Welcome Home. 


From Te Waikoropupu to Harwood Hole 

We used to swim here as a family, 
but now you can’t even touch the water. 

The Maori just declared it tapu – 
that seems to be a recent myth. 

We drove up deep into the hills, 
and walked into a shady wood 

where we were all surprised to see 
a cluster of trees in a shadow of snow. 

I’d taken it for fallen light 
but I guess that that’s happens when 

you leave a shadow overnight 
to develop for hours in total darkness. 

And soon we were clambering, picking our way 
between roots and rocks; then the rocks got bigger 

and suddenly we were at the hole. 
Promise me you’ll grab this tree, 

you called, and I made sure I did; 
I held it tight, and gazed down once. 

At a safer distance, we tossed in ice 
and counted the seconds before it crashed; 

then gingerly, we took our pictures; 
though none of them captured the awesome drop. 

I’m not afraid to admit that hole 
scared the bejesus out of me; 

in spite of which, I’m glad they haven’t 
put up any barriers, 

since, myths or no myths, I’ve good reason 
to be convinced that place is tapu. 


James Ackhurst lives in Wellington, where he teaches ancient Greek.