Dunstan Ward

 

 

 

Born in Dunedin in 1942, Dunstan Ward has lived in Paris since 1973, retiring in 2007 as Professor of English at the University of London Institute. He co-edited Robert Graves’s Complete Poems (1995–99). His collection Beyond Puketapu appeared in 2015.

 

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Dunstan Ward

 

Julou

 

 

Julou – ‘little Jules’ – mimes an ironic

Salut’ from his cattle truck, clattering

over the bridge where I’m leaning to watch

the green-black waters of the river Goul

deepen toward the old mill dam below Pons.

 

‘So what were you making off with?’ I ask

next early morning walk when his car pulls in

on the steep slope from his village, Las Lignes,

for our ritual chat. ‘The little bull calf.

Didn’t you hear the cow? Elle a gueulé

toute la nuit. Listen to her – she’s still at it.’

‘There’s a mother for you.’ Stocky Julou nods:

‘Just like our own mothers, only more so.’

This lifelong Aveyron cattle dealer

never misses the Laissac weekly market,

yet won’t hunt deer, wild boar; with few now

can speak Occitan, sa lenga mairala.

 

At the top of the wooded hill I sight her,

lurching about in a pen above the road,

beyond Julou’s vegetable patch. She eyes me,

thrusting her black muzzle between the railings:

coat wheaten, lyre-horned, she’s an Aubrac;

her swollen udder sways as she swings round.

Every few seconds she heaves another

deep hoarse cry up from her straining guts

and out of her gaping throat. If a sound

in the nearby farmyard reaches her she stops,

lifts her head, attentive, but then goes back

to that distraught calling, bellow after bellow.

 

*

 

When she heard, from twelve thousand miles away,

cancer had killed at sixty her firstborn son,

my mother stayed quiet. Later that day

I looked for her and found her sitting alone

in the living room, the book on her lap closed.

 

 

 

The Moment

 

 

That moment you sense

a poem is a poem

 

can suddenly come

at the end of the last line,

 

or right at the first,

or even with the title,

 

or when, as you keep reading,

a turn in the words

 

checks you, an image

makes you wonder or smile;

 

the rest is poetry, page

after similar page.

 

Like falling in love

and loving, as one might say.