‘From Bracken’s Lookout, Dunedin’, by Brian Turner

…Who ever saw
The limit in the given anyhow?
 – Seamus Heaney

Just what you’d expect of a lookout
named after a poet
whose best-known phrase is ‘Not understood’,

the carpark on the first step of the hill
to Opoho is sited so we sit
with backs to the cemetery,

where Bracken’s remains are buried,
facing the city that’s encircled
by sea and high hills.

We’re in between here, and so much
that’s past and present is taut
with a longing for permanence,

immortality seeming out of the question,
though I’m old enough to know
there are ghosts yet to be laid to rest

in the shadowed streets below.
What we have here’s random selection,
the language of hereafter and begetting,

and what’s given is what we sense
and nothing else. Extravagance
is not part of a southern legacy

and all know what ‘for better or worse’
means, and the phrase
‘what goes up must come down’

always raises a smile, is oddly regenerative.
I loiter, lost and found,
and watch the birds – for whom

everything depends on the given –
swing back and forth in the late sun
scribing arcs of a pendulum.

– Brian Turner, ‘From Bracken’s Lookout, Dunedin’, in Taking Off (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2001), 84–5.

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