Waikaia Poem

Yesterday afternoon after an art gallery event in Gore, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Waikaia for pizza in the pub rather than return to our too-warm home in Gore (height of summer here in New Zealand). The photos here were all taken yesterday and I’m also presenting a Waikaia poem by Kay McKenzie Cooke who grew up in Southland and spent some of her holidays with relatives in Waikaia. This small rural town is well off the “beaten path”, way out in the country.

Waikaia, Southland, New Zealand. Photos taken Sunday 10 Feb 2019

Wooden tank that marks the turn-off to Waikaia. The original goldmining town, further away, was called Switzers but they basically mined themselves out of existance!


Waikaia is famous for its  bottle house  hence this fascinating road sign


Modern gently arched bridge over the Waikaia River


Then a beautiful avenue of elms lead the way to the town centre


Here is a view of the river and willow trees, taken by Nigel from the bridge, looking downstream


This is where I introduce Kay’s poem “each verandah” from her book of poems titled “made for weather” published 2007. These days Kay McKenzie Cooke lives in Dunedin, New Zealand and her WP blog is  CUTTINGS

each verandah

Homesick for the more familiar
ocean and rain,
I was lost
in that inland town tied to willows
and a river,

where each strange verandah
painted bright, each snug window,
neat hedge,
suggested something more sinister
than the mere unwinding

of a fortnight’s holiday
where the light was hot
and dark-liquid fly-traps
festered in five-gallon drums.
But the swimming hole –

reached over ground rough
with raspberry,
with its rope swing
and smell of mud –
gave off the smell of home

and for a time there,
I would revel
in the Waikaia’s attentive rocking,
my limbs under water, wavering
pale and unfamiliar.


In a conversation via “comments” this morning I told Kay about how we’d driven around Waikaia streets looking for a bright verandah but these days the houses all seem to be painted in neutral colours. And she told me this..

“There was a house there in the 60’s that was painted almost in rainbow colours – I think they called the woman who lived there the Colour Lady – and it was largely that house (bungalow) that inspired that particular line in the poem.” — Kay McKenzie Cooke

I leave you with photos of this lovely old cottage and gate that we found..



Text and photos by Liz, river photo by Nigel; Exploring Colour (2019)
The poem “each verandah” shared with permission of Kay McKenzie Cooke

14 thoughts on “Waikaia Poem

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  1. I love this Liz and Nigel and Kay. The photos are stunning; the lush trees, the heavy clouds and that ominous wooden tank and then Kay’s poem, that sense of being out of place, at first, finding discomfort in hot light, neat hedges and rough raspberry grounds so far from familiar oceans until the water washed over her with the scent of home. Sometimes all we need is a rope to hold on to, and suddenly, we are home. Brilliant.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “a rope to hold on to” – you’ve nailed it! Yes, the rope swing is an icon for the NZ summer holiday.. when I was a kid every swimming hole had a rope swing somewhere! When I worked in a photo library, a well-taken rope swing image was sure to be popular with advertisers wanting to portray the summer holiday vibe. And for the kids, yes its “home” for them when they see the swing! What a sweet thought you shared.. its amazing how strong our connection is with things as simple as a rope swing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also love hole you all get such enjoyment from something called a swimming hole, to me that sounds like a danger to avoid, anything with the word hole is not where I would imagine relaxing, although now that I think about it, a pub is called it a watering hole and that can be relaxing, although I am not sure I know that because of an Irish expression or because I grew up watching the Aussie soap dramas Neighbors and Home and Away and they called the local pub a watering hole!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Pubs here used to be so crass and were definitely a danger to avoid, thank goodness many of them are much better nowadays. The brave kids would just leap off the bank clinging onto the rope and then drop off into the middle of the swimming hole – delicious on a hot summers day! Lots of shrieks and delight!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh that is so beautiful Liz. Thanks for using the poem so beautifully. I love the photos – they make a great accompaniment to the poem. It makes me want to re-visit Waikaia – a favourite place of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful to receive your response Kay and I’m so glad you like it. Your poem adds so much more to the post than if I just did photos. Now that Waikaia has its brand new museum it’d be a good time for a re-visit!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome Ted! As we drove away Nigel said to me that even when we just visit Waikaia for a short time, it feels like we’ve had a mini holiday. And that’s exactly what its like for both of us!

      Liked by 1 person

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