Leonard Lambert
New Zealand

Leonard Lambert lives near Tauranga. His poetry is widely anthologized and he has published three collections of poetry, most recently Natural Anthem (HeadworX, 2004).

The Dearly Beloveds

Famous in their world they fall,
The Dearly Beloveds:
they are not widely mourned,
no tribal accolades mark their passing.

Wives cuddle and bake, husbands
count the cars they left behind;
for a day or two the streets are stunned;
food appears, neighbours are kind.

Life flows back along broad known
channels, the language with it:
One So Young, Brave To The End,
He Looked So Well Last Visit.

At the closing of another small era
chronicled in a private code
we seem to need, and duly suffer,
the ministrations of a tepid creed.

Famous in our world we go,
The Dearly Beloveds, toppled kings
of that intense and narrow court
we call the human heart;

which in the gathered handful
who kindle to our private name
is world enough and wide enough
for a brief, a dying fame.

The Homecoming

As I turn and turn to go again, and down,
so the petals fall, and a fine sweet rain;
your meadows your valleys your low wooded hills lie open,
your glad gardens, their pastel airs, freely given.
Like the hush of the sea in early Spring
or the colour of the Sun through tender leaves, yellow-green,
a subtle effervescence like soft applause
pervades my inner seas;
and all the maniacs I keep behind bars,
the madmen in my midst, stunned to wonder, stand amazed
(The school-marm forebrain approves, is pleased.)

There must have been such a moment a million years ago
when the doubtful ape, that gracile proto-man,
bent to sorrow by the unsolicited gift, turned a corner in Time
and looked out across a new region of the heart,
the sunny uplands of some higher self
he called the Abode of the Gods, which beckoned and were lost …

Shyly kissed, I come home to myself,
a fêted celebrated man; I walk this homely weather of the heart,
soaked to another skin; madly sane.


Tuku’s Library

Somewhere south of Kawhia
the bush comes down to the sea.
On flat land
for some reason never farmed
there is a barn, a mansion of sorts
with all doors open
and windows wide – ‘Tuku’s Library’
the locals deride. Myself
I loved the peace of the place
the rapture of the sea. Some good
may come of this.

Grandpa’s Gift
For Turi

He could really handle money,
my father-in-law, he threw most of it away –
I’d never seen this before.

He fumbled in his pocket, it tumbled out,
note after crumpled note, he’d fill your hand –
what was his was yours;

and I saw to my delight,
he made me understand, the scraps of coloured paper
it truly merely was.

“Rich, eh?” I hear him say, and laugh,
“Not anymore!” Rich all right, that man, in another
currency, richest of all.

Other Eyes

I went to the mountain
found a low sad hill –

I walked among the fallen
felt nothing at all –

I grasped at their stories
grabbed a handful of air –

I fingered their treasures
trinkets of the poor –

But when I looked again
when I looked with other eyes,
clothed in spirit, cloaked in reverence, wrapped around,
the mountain proclaimed its power
the great dead looked out through living eyes
the stories sang, the treasures came alive, they shone,
and the ancient world strode past, moved on
into future days –

when I looked again
when I looked
with other eyes.

We crested decades

We crested decades,
wave after wave with never a following sea –
Life flowed towards. And the waves far astern –
I sometimes turned to watch them –
their humped farewelling shape which says
we cannot stay
we cannot know thee more.

We crested decades,
a merry crew in a patched-up skow,
they laughed at us, we laughed too,
because we were under way, we were riding high.
The dark of the great water valleys held no fears,
the luck that good love makes pulled us through.

We crested decades, you and I,
and gave no thought to journey’s end, the final bays.
Today you roar past in your glassy launch, and wave,
I rock in your wake, consult my charts,
but cannot believe such tides
or that evening should come on so fast.