Side by Side

Whether looking up, or looking down, there are things to take into consideration.

Blood moon from a week ago. If you look closely you can see a star sharing the stage
Unavoidably blurred because I should have used a tripod. Keeping my head steady by leaning against the wall of our house, did help a little bit.

Something wondrous about seeing the lunar eclipse the other night. A charitable night sky provided us with a clear view. So silent. So far away, yet at the same time, so near. So slowly dramatic. Where was the atmospheric music? It seemed strange to be seeing something so majestic being staged without accompaniment. At one point I heard someone four houses down howling like a wolf. Like a Dad joke – not funny, just annoying.

When you spend a long time gazing at the moon (and by association, the stars) perspective becomes a factor.


Hunting for wheke / octopus on Andersons Bay inlet

When in Japan I have eaten takoyaki (octopus dish) lovingly prepared by our son and Japanese daughter in law. And having been brought up on a farm, I’ve seen stuff. I’ve observed animals being slaughtered and hunted. As a result, my squeamish meter is set at about six. But having seen freshly-caught wheke being unceremoniously (hastily?) flung into the boot of a car like some murdered corpse, all its tentacles writhing and pleading on the end of a spear, I did feel a certain level of horror and revulsion. Yet even in that brief glimpse as I scurried past, I did note how beautiful in death the octopus was, its movements mesmerising, dance-like.

Whether I’m gazing up into space, or down at water where space is reflected; whether I’m witnessing the unattainable, unearthly mystery of an eclipse, or the more basic instinct of a human being to hunt and kill a beautiful deep-sea creature; I can’t help but think that it’s all just part of life. The sacred and the base keeping some kind of warped balance, existing side by side, constantly repelling, totally inseparable.



For a fish which in captivity requires
a round tank so as not to injure itself,
a square, concrete bus stop is not the best

containment. Yet
like a moon, this painted-on sunfish despite
its grey, lights up the shadowed bus shelter.

Slate-coloured, a sunfish is named
not as you’d think for its shape,
but for its habit of sun-bathing

close to the ocean’s surface. Also
called ‘mola’ (Pacific-language)
meaning millstone, for its colour of stone

and how rough and flat and round. At night
sunfish creep, surprising prey, swallowing whole
parties of silent jellyfish.

My brother-in-law’s uncle once hauled in a sunfish
with his net. The largest sunfish ever seen
up until that point, now stuffed and hanging

on a wall in the Otago Museum. When translated,
the Chinese name for sunfish is, ‘Toppled Car ‘,
in Deutsch, ‘Head Alone’. In Maori,

the word is ‘Ratahuihui.’
This bus stop sunfish is a paralyzed paint-brush
depiction that will eventually be

painted over
and forgotten, but that’s fine, the real thing
still lives, basking and feasting, while close by

in a motionless inlet, those who spear octopuses,
those molluscs as agile as ballet dancers in full flight,
use torches to fake moonlight on dark water

attracting te wheke to a squirming death
on the end of a metal tooth’s snarl fixed to tall wooden poles
poised in their sunless hunt.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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