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Now in my decline in the time of men
I remember way back then when I was ten,
when we lived in a shadow much greater
at the foot of the Mount and its dormant crater.
Where we'd climb and to the top race
like Hillary and Tenzing up the south face,
then on our backsides slide to the rocks below
from whence the lava used to flow.
Behold the old white house at 89 Owens Road,
the grass I with an old push blade mowed,
and where from my upstairs room
I saw the spring terraced flowers bloom.
Where outside we played cricket all summer long
and inside were the masters of ping pong!
In our living room my family and me
saw a moonlanding and a war on TV -
on our black 'n white set watching My Three Sons,
Gunsmoke and Bonanza with my toy guns...
or perchance playing canasta soon as I was able
and even a séance on the coffee table,
where spirits from the spirit world did roam
and truly spelled out to our guests "go home!".
When my birthday cake burnt ten candles
and I wore short pants and Roman sandals,
with my bag down Valley Road walking
past the shops on the way to school talking -
spending my lunch money licking my lips
eating aniseed wheels and jelly tips!
Where my mate lived above his mum's shoe store
and between us all was fair in love and war!
Listening to my new transistor all the while
tuned in to 1480 on top of the dial:
to the hip happening sounds of Radio Hauraki
in the gulf on a pirate ship called Tiri.
Till through the gates of my teacher and jailer:
Mrs Furner, Miss Gaiqui, and Mr Taylor;
and catch a glimpse of a vision in a cotton dress -
the girl of my restless dreams I confess!
Then before the bell sounded its morning ring
we'd be flying on the moari swing,
or games on the courts or running to shield
playing bullrush on the football field.
And behold, in class on his guitar my teacher
playing folk songs and exhorting like a preacher,
singing "where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls pick them every one..."
and "Oma rapeti...rabbit run, run, run"
or playing Maori stick games just having fun:
drawing native carvings and birds that can't fly,
reading about Hinemoa and Tutanekai.
Weaving flax and with hands of string
making diamonds and parachutes that cling,
or in single file marching from the school
with our towel and togs to the pool -
an Eden boy at the starters end ready to dive in
for a prized 50 metre certificate to win.
Then gather the class in the projection room
and gaze in the ceiling the stars illume:
where our Milky Way mural hung so surreal
as we sat and watched an old movie reel.
But soon the fun would turn to palpable fear
when all the class trembled to hear...
read to the children who were quiet as a mouse
was the Dental List for the Murder House!
Alas a fate worse than death - the whining drill
to bore and clean and to mercury fill;
where the needle sometimes dulled the pain
yet the screams of boys and girls remain.
After school in my uniform arrayed
I marched to the tune in the Boys Brigade!
And on weekends roaming the neighbourhood
in search of adventure as best we could,
climbing the hill to the construction site
of The Pines apartments at a great height.
On Guy Fawkes night from my pocket
lighting my firecrackers and my skyrocket -
armed and dangerous ready to throw
with red packs of Double Happys lit to blow.
And on night time mission on ninja patrol
detonating milk bottles - whoa! fire in the hole!
Or off to the Crystal Palace to catch a flick
lest my mother test my arithmetic.
At Eden Park when the mighty Auks played host
sitting with my mates behind the goalpost,
with my dad and brother at the track
in the birdcage and hearing the whips crack -
at Ellerslie in the Ladies Stand or Alexandra Park
with my Best Bets - my picks to mark.
And on the Sabbath beneath cross and spires
in Sunday School at old Greyfriars.
Now alas, in my decline in the time of men
I remember way back then when I was ten!
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