Saturday, October 13, 2012

memories of Margaret...

Late July, 2012.

My home country,

is in mourning...

For a storyteller beyond compare.

Memories well to the surface,
like tears.

This is not a poem,
just a collection of small memories.

I remember being asked
to tour with you
around the Kapiti Libraries...

It is sometime in the last year
of the old Millenium.

I have recently turned thirty
and am
beginning to doubt
whether I should be still working
with children.

The night before I am due
to meet
and work with you,
I re-read some of your

I am so excited
that I barely sleep.

The next day,
I agree to meet you (and your host)
at the Parade Cafe
in Oriental Bay.

I am so nervous,
but somehow manage to be
gracious and intelligent.

We all sit down for a coffee
and scones, with jam & cream.

I find myself holding onto
every word you speak.

At one point,
I glance down and see that we are
wearing a small
purple amethyst ring
on our pinky fingers.

You are more than twice my age,
but I entertain in my head
the idea of marriage.


For the next three days,
I ride on the train to Kapiti,
and met with you.

We tour into a couple of libraries each day
and a few lucky schools...

You put on your multi-coloured wig
and your badge laden scarf,

and become a magician!!

With your words
and your voice alone,
children and adults alike

are captured & enchanted

by your huge presence, wisdom and magic!!

I stand at the whiteboard,
whiteboard marker in hand,
and try to control my shaking...

Do justice to your whirlwind of words,
bring them to life in pictures.

The gift you give me
(over three amazing days)
is that you are never
too old to work with children!!

That if you love what you do
and have a passion for it...
They will always love you back!

I wish I had been given a chance
to tell you that you gave me that back...

I remember sitting
on the trainride home
every night,

(having been so inspired,
working in the company
of a true wordsmith):

Scribbling masses of words & images
into my book,
the coast line of Paraparaumu
flashing by outside the window...

Years later, just
before I moved to Australia

(to continue my work with children
on a larger scale)

I saw you give a speech
at Te Papa,
the National Museum of New Zealand.

You were now in your seventies,
but you hadn't slown down at all...

I still vividly remember
your tiny frame
filling that entire huge stage.

& every now and then,
you would cough.

And you said, 
delighting everyone that came to see you,
(all still hanging on your every word):

"When you get to my age,
a cough can be used as punctuation,
like an exclamation mark in a sentence..."


In late July of this year,
I was swept up in a sense of loss...

A loss an entire nation
(and indeed, many a booklover
& librarian overseas, young and old)

would feel too.

I wanted to write this then,
but the words failed me.

They still fail me now.
How does one put in words
what we have lost?

I am just grateful that you
were a true magician of words,

and have left so many of your words
behind in this world.

A world,
that now,
perhaps (more than ever)

needs the magic,
love, wonder & delight

that you believed in
and wrote about.

Kia Kaha, Margaret!!

I said it before.

This is not a poem,

and the words
contained within
seem awkward,

fragile even.

Yes, they are not a poem.

a collection
of small memories.


memories of Margaret.

(c) Brent M Harpur, 2012.

- For Margaret Mahy,
  21 March 1936 - 23 July, 2012.

"I hope I am not too repetitive. However, coming to terms with death is part of the general human situation." (Margaret Mahy)

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