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This poem is taken from PN Review 272, Volume 49 Number 6, July - August 2023.

Days of Sail Gregory O'Brien
for Robin White, sea-rider, HMNZS Otago, Torpedo Bay – Raoul Island – Nuku-alofa May 2011, and for the Fifita family, the dancers and the tapa-makers

The common thread, eye of a whalebone
needle, this lifelong stitching together of

that which belongs: sailcloth, canvas,
the air when last you

breathed it. Robin, I remember long hours on deck and how
the ratings, when they couldn’t explain a naval protocol

or phrase, would simply shrug and tell us, ‘It must have been
passed down from the Days of Sail…’
     as each day is itself, in turn, passed down

or arrives unannounced: the sea when last we sailed it –
folds, creases and seams of the Great Tapa.
     I take home what I can

the poem a pin-hole camera, a letting in
of what little light is allowed it. I remember

you walking the breadth of Raoul Island barefoot –
the three-hour Denham Bay round-trip –

to absorb the animal warmth and sentience
...


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