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A Narrative Poem
by Peter Earsman

It is sometimes said that early morning is the best time of the day
and mostly that would be right.
Except of course for those elected by their peers
to feel the bristly rope of justice at that time
on a particular day.

As a free man, I would often wake early,
leave my scented wife asleep, dream smiling,
and walk through the dripping woods to the river.
Just when the birds began to call over the black treetops.
I would be sitting on the bank of the steaming river,
in the greyness,
watching it clean house.

Old, dead trees and logs
lifting and rolling in the gentle current.
Some would hit a snag to spin lazily
for a yard or two,
before recovering and straightening
down to the sea.

It was on the banks of this river
in a similar cold dawn,
that I discovered that my wife's sister was not ill,
and that my wife was not at her side in Matamata, two days ride away.
She was in an old wooden hut
spare as a whare
With another man.

I saw her in the doorway, her hands in her hair,
her body round, soft and glowing with recent love,
and in the white chemise I carried on foot, three days from the Waikato store
last spring.

As I watched from the trees, with no breath and a dead heart,
two strong brown hands came out of the darkness behind her,
and interlaced on her belly.
A dark face appeared on her shoulder
to kiss the side of her lifted throat.

Later that morning, while they were lying soft on skins,
sunlight through the window firing her bronze hair,
I took my gun and killed them both.

So this morning I wait for the first bird-call,
and the scuffle of boots and the rattle of keys
outside my cell.

The taking of the life of my love is an act that might be balanced
only by my own death.
That notion has my sympathy.
But her lover was a native, and no crime seemed to attach to his murder.
If I was more a philosopher and less a hell-bent assassin,
I might wonder if perhaps this fact is the greater crime.
But an academic point that to ponder steals my time and offers nothing back.
I will be just as dead for one as for two.

Copyright Peter W Earsman 2000