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Ashburton Art Gallery

327 West St

Ashburton | 7700

P | 03 308 1133

E | info@ashburtonartgallery.org.nz

Gallery Hours

Open Daily: 10am - 4pm

Wednesday: 10am - 7pm

Closed Good Friday, Anzac Morning and Christmas day

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NEWS

Phil's sound work at the opening_news

Conversation with a mid-Canterbury braided river

April 19, 2018

‘Fifteen apparitions have I seen;

The worst a coat upon a coat-hanger’

(W. B. Yeats, ‘The Apparitions’)

 

Moved, as I am

immovable, like you

 

I turn over, I sleep

on my side

 

nestled in the

watery fact

 

of you. I fall about, collect

my thoughts—

 

another thing we have

in common—I get ahead

 

of myself, I meander

so as not to

 

lose my way. I rock

and sway.

 

I digress. And this is how

I come back to you

 

bedded and besotted, body strewn

with inverted clouds

 

migratory birds, dawn-lit

improbable.

 

Like you, I have

my sources; I wade

 

the long waters

of myself. My ear

 

to the ground or

to the constant applause

 

of your rapids. You are your own

concert, open-air, a solitary leaf

 

crowd-surfing downstream

and the occasional

 

beercan thrown. Lately there has been

talk of you as

 

lapsed or recovering, dispersed

drained, interrupted or

 

resumed. And this

my sleepless night, my apparition:

 

an insect walking this land—

a coat-hanger on which might

 

hang a bright green shirt, a stream led down

a long avenue of hosepipe and

 

aluminium, a river flowing

sideways, its taniwha

 

reduced to a drizzle or fine mist

a trickle from

 

an automated tap. Your position on this too

is inarguable

 

as if argument was ever

a river’s way.

 

Braided, you tell me, I was

upbraided, scrambled across

 

siphoned and run ragged by hydrotrader, flood

harvester, water bottler, irrigator

 

and resource manager. This riverbed is

my marae, the long legs of wading birds

 

my acupuncture, these waters

my only therapy.

 

On clear nights

galaxies enter me, planetary bodies

 

like swimmers. How many minds

a river has—caddis and mayfly

 

eyeless eel and

native trout. As an argument

 

this might not hold water

but neither does

 

a paddock gone around

in circles

 

or a skeletal arm endlessly

scrawling its initials in

 

a sodden green ledger. Whichever way

the river doesn’t flow

 

I remain undecided, as is

water’s way.

 

I disperse, lost for words

I dry up.

 

I had an apparition, an insect

walking this riverless land

 

earthbound stars

rattling, beyond reflection

 

along a dry

river’s bed.

 

By Gregory O’Brien