In 1969 the poet James K. Baxter formed a commune at Jerusalem (Hiruhārama) on the Whanganui River, where he lived for periods until 1972, the year of his death. In his time at the commune Baxter wrote two books of poetry – Jerusalem sonnets (1970) and Autumn testament (1972) – and a prose work, Jerusalem daybook (1971).
Poem for Colin—25
The brown river, te taniwha, flows on
Between his banks—he could even be on my side,
I suspect, if there is a side—there are still notches worn
In the cliffs downstream where they used to shove
The big canoes up; and just last week some men
Floated a ridge-pole down from an old pa
For the museum—he can also be
A brutal lover; they say he sucked under
A young girl once, and the place at the river-bend is named
After her tears—I accept that—I wait for
The taniwha in the heart to rise—when will that happen?
Is He dead or alive? A car goes by on the road
With an enormous slogan advertising
Rides for tourists on the jetboat at Pipiriki.
Poem courtesy of The James K. Baxter Trust
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Source: James K. Baxter, Jerusalem Sonnets. Wellington: Price Milburn, 1975