Two Sisters Carry On

Carrying on from Hanmer Springs, three sisters divided into two, as ‘The Bookends’ bade farewell to ‘Middle Child’.

MacKenzie Country

My sister and I (two McKenzies) headed through MacKenzie Country, our destination being Lake Tekapo, where we would be staying the night before travelling the next day through to Dunedin via Outram, Tarras, Alexandra, Roxburgh, Millers Flat (where we visited our brother) and Lawrence, Milton, Lake Waihola and finally Dunedin. After spending a night with us in Dunedin, my sister was booked to fly back to Wellington the following morning.

The view through the hotel room in Tekapo where we stayed. It is a huge resort lodge, but was mostly empty because of the Covid pandemic causing a dearth of tourists.

This rainbow as we emerged from Manuka Gorge was like a promise for better days ahead for my sister, who had been finding this last leg of our journey bittersweet, bringing back memories of her last trip here with her partner David, who died only five months ago.

Rather than go into any more detail about our trip, I’ll leave you with the poem below; freshly-penned today. (After what seems a very long time away from any consolidated writing, it feels good to feel the urge to write again. And going by the spaces that have at last opened up on my calendar, I have once more got some free time to dedicate to writing down all the ideas that have been stewing away in my brain since the beginning of 2021.)


MacKenzie Country
(McKenzie Clan motto: ‘Luceo non uro. I shine not burn’).

Through this season tartaned by gold;
through the umber, the amber,
the tawny. Through the flaxen.
Our mood one of awe
and grief respectively,
we stop for breakfast in a café
*porous with country
and western music
played loud over speakers.

On through land shucked opened
to the colours of a bearable death
– willows and poplars surrendering
their leaves
to autumn’s shrivel, begging pardon
with a palette of shades the colour of sun,
flame, rust.

And farther on, another stop, this time
the Tarras Tearooms
where locals refuse to bow
to any clean, runway sweep
or trade welcome smiles
for even a hint
of neighbouring Tekapo’s
tourist-designer greys.

Helped by photos, today I revisit that trip
and write this poem remembering
how my sister mourned
for her partner, dead now for a whole season.
I want to sit here forever,
writing this poem. To keep on
writing the seasons as they fall and die
and turn to live again. To shine, not burn.

*This line takes its cue from the line ‘porous with travel fever’ from the Joni Mitchell song, ‘Hejira.’

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

One thought on “Two Sisters Carry On

  1. Great to be without the hordes of tourists for this blip in time, But we needs must share & offer hospitality.

    Liked by 1 person

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