Tuesday Poem – ‘People of the Water’- in memory of Joe Bell, Mussel Inn Live Poets Convenor

They have come from everywhere

these people.

They came for the water.

The water flows the valleys and the mountains.

It bubbles underground and out to sea.


They are the land between the waves

these people.

They paddle boats

toward each other’s shores.

And korero among the whitebait haunts.


Sometimes they disagree

these people.

But after storms they stand upon the bridge.

And watch the movement

of the ducks’ webbed feet.


Sometimes they stand and stare

these people.

Out to where the water meets the sky.

How did our forbears come so very far

in tiny sailing ships and carved canoes?


It is an old man’s thinning stream

the water.

And the tears that dribble

down a baby’s cheek.

It strokes the children of the people

the water.

And smooths the eels that swim

between their legs.

For the water is their ancestor too. 

And they are the water’s mokopuna.

I wrote this poem a few years ago. I wanted to capture the spirit of the community which is Golden Bay. Looking after each other, and the land,  is a vital part of that spirit.

Joe Bell, who died last week in Milnthorpe, Golden Bay, embodied this spirit to the max.   Joe was an enthusiastic and well-known live poet. He helped start the Live Poets’ group at Golden Bay’s famous Mussel Inn and chaired it for seventeen years.   He is and will remain greatly missed by his many friends.  The photo below shows Milnthorpe,  Joe’s turangawaewae.

Please return to Tuesday Poets and enjoy the fine mix of poets and poetry uploaded for your pleasure today.

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – ‘People of the Water’- in memory of Joe Bell, Mussel Inn Live Poets Convenor”

  1. Gosh I love this, the smooth flow of it and the watery comings and goings of the people and shore… And to hear your dedication to Joe, that is beautiful too. Glad I stopped in this morning. Peace to Joe and your community…

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Michelle. Yes there is a lot of water in Golden Bay lots of interesting underground water systems too. So it seemed an appropriate poem to farewell Joe with.

  3. What a lovely way to remember an old friend. I hope I have a friend like you writing a poem to my memory when I shuffle off this mortal coil.

  4. Hello Harvey, Thanks for visitng.I actually wrote the poem some time ago and it seemed an appropriate one to dedicate to Joe.
    Talking about shuffling off this mortal coil …I always have a picture of someone shuffling in a pair of old felt slippers, and then perhaps growing some wings and taking flight but it doesn’t mean that at all does it..:-).

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