The Cloud Forest
In the cloud forest of family trees, with its lineage of millionaires,
dozens of shades of glitter filter down
to the sticky bud of a fern frond
which is an embryo folded in on itself,
damp brown hairs slicked and combed over into a caul.
It sprouts on the end of a stem, like an art nouveau curlicue
in a showroom of Tiffany lamps.
Tribes of glassblowers have lived here, engraving the canopy,
since glass tadpoles first shattered
into Gondwanaland froglets of and glacier cocoons were sawn through,
plankton-green, like the interior chrysalis of a capsized iceberg.
Their glassworks blew, moulded and spun pohutukawa nectar
into bush orchids and puffball fungi,
then into vases, bowls and butterdishes,
and now into hollow-emerald fibre-optic cables,
a telecommunications rainforest,
home of the velvet haunting call of the kokako,
place of deep satellite footprints, encircled by white rata vines.
Silica, soda and limestone melt into a glassware
syrup of foliage,
flowing through the jelly of filmy ferns
in the drizzle season marked fragile.
Unlock the engine’s valves, seals and plugs
to let the green goo run free.
Atoms in the molecular structure of glass
soon find their way back to crystalline arrangements,
cooling into branches glazed with honeydew,
into trunks buttressed with footnotes left by generations of botanists
opening a green umbrella in search of the tree genome.
A kaka nest-hole buzzes with cellphone squawks,
sunlight coins a collection plate’s worth of small change,
a logging camp takes root.
The jewellery remnants of depleted forest histories
are place in scenic reserves –
a settlers’ museum of kahikatea butterboxes,
a florist’s shop-window of white kanuka in November.
From Empty Orchestra (Auckland UP, 1995)