Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Rock – a tribute to Tiny Hill

The reasons
we called you this
at first were visual -
schist tor torso
voice of trampled gravel
nose as flat
as a skipping stone
(ground down in the murk
of countless scrums and rucks)

In 1964, when I jumped off
the train at 2 a.m. to land
in Waiouru's railway metal
and by moonlight saw
for the first time
two presentations of immensity -
Ruapehu to my left and you
on the platform to my right -
I didn’t know that
you were a famous All Black
from the 'fifty-six test series
the first the ABs ever won
against the 'boks

Nor did I really care
about that then
for like our fathers after the war
you never talked
to us Army boys
about your exploits
(though I've heard
at times you would confide
with close mates
over a post-match beer
how vindicated you felt
that you were dropped
for the one test we lost
against those 'boks)

Only now do I recall
the faintest of wry grins
when we did odd things
to avoid you - hiding
taking round-about routes
(or when you suddenly appeared
just as we went out of bounds)
lying flat in the roadside grit
hoping the dust
would swallow us

The reasons we still
call you this
are now more visceral
knowing that fifty years ago
we boys were small stones
carried by life’s river
to the anchor of a large rock
where we were taught
to carry the ball
read the game
give it our all

A couple of weekends ago, I went to a reunion which marked the fiftieth anniversary of joining the New Zealand Army for a group of boy soldier entrants, of which I was one. Fifty-four of our original intake of just over 140 attended. Also attending was Tiny Hill, now 87, who was our "School Sergeant Major".  I read this poem during the Saturday evening's dinner celebrations.

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