Verb Wellington lockdown essay: I hope to make six good friends before I die
Poetry Shelf: My lights for Paul
Read a poem
A small marriage of poems and pictures
We are allowed to visit at Christmas time
I’m on the driveway we don’t go up
in a dress I never wear.
My mother and her mother,
the dark firs whispering behind.
I watch them as they drink their tea.
Christmas lilies spilling pink scents—
my grandmother comes as a haze
of flowered frocks she advances
across the lawn, concealing her
net. She wants to know everything:
my cat, my kitten my school, my
horse, my house—
she uses a particular sweet jam
to find out about my father—aha
he’s back at home
slashing the heads off thistles.
darken out the sun
I am at their knees looking up
at the lode star of the stirrup
and my four-storey father.
I meet him on the road,
he puts me up on the saddle
while he walks below
and I sway on my horse tower
with the sky swelling.
At three, he lets me hold the reins.
A bird bursts out, the horse flies me
head first onto the metal road.
Out cold. Stones in my ears,
he carries me home.
We have to learn everything bareback.
Dad’s horses, slippery, ripple like water
we have to hang on with our knees
— Get Straight Back On.
I copy Dad’s model of the upright style—
Dad and Kimmy over wire in the Hunter class
at the Dannevirke show—hanging still
they jump across the walls of my flats, my houses,
to remind me of old-fashioned grace
and to rein back.
In rain, in wind, the hills
lean in as he gets smaller
and I kick and kick my pony to keep in sight.
He rides on in front. I want to call him back, cry, Wait.
I carried the lamb in a sack on my horse
the tongue hanging grey and limp.
It’s buggered, said Dad, throw it in the creek.
The creek leaped, dimpled. Small bubbles
whirled, it rumpled where I was looking
the water shadowed half-blue-black
deep just there with duckweed floating out
the yards behind all noise, the cattle swirling
up air swelled with dust and bellowing.
Flies lighted on and off the rails.
I took the lamb and kneeled in the pudgy mud
both hands under it, under the water,
laid it carefully into the shocked cold.
It hardly struggled, there was so little left.
Put the bloody thing out of its misery
I heard in my head as I pushed it under
and the water shuddered.
Get the hell out of that he yelled at my back
you macabre little bastard!
It might have been ghoulish, he was good with words.
The yards were sweating hot
Dad wiped his hatband, the sack smelling
of stiff dry flax, I wiped my nose
my hand all mud and numb.
The birds hummed. In rain, in wind
I go out all hours on my lambing beat
he’s the shadow of me, always riding beside me.
Let it go he said, quietly. And I let it go floating
it bobbed and the sun caught the eye, closing.
Shush, shush, said the creek.