Scoop Review of Books

Four Poets – Four Poems

Next Monday will see four poets with collections published in the last twelve months reading their poems at Te Papa. Helen Heath (Graft) and Joan Fleming (The Same as Yes) are first-timers; Lynn Davidson (whose Common Ground mixes poetry and essay) and Harry Ricketts (Just Then) are both teachers of creative writing with longer track records.

The Scoop Review of Books is pleased to be able to bring you a sneak preview of some of the poems that will be having an outing on Monday 16 July between 12:15 and 1:15pm at the Marae, Level 4, Te Papa.

Holding water

Beds get tighter when you share
them. You’ll slip into his curvature,
pooling in the dip of his collar bone.
When you dance with your partner
you’ll stay in motion till someone cuts in.
If something isn’t there you can’t know
if you’ve proved its absence.
You dream yourself into a beach,
become the grains of sand
he rushes in to meet
and the waves break – slap
on the pebbles – slate, amber, bone.

Helen Heath

El Prado

A damp morning, just a touch nippy
for January. You’re here
in this indoor meadow, this art-house barn,
randy for epiphany,
or at least hoping to be surprised.

So Raphael’s Transfiguration
is certainly dramatic –
in fact, quite literally uplifting.
But why does that boy a-goggle
at Christ levitating leave you cold?

Thirty-five years ago with a head
full of Gormenghast, Seventh
Seal, Crow, the Velvet Underground, you’d have found
El Greco’s silver-lit e-
longations ‘really weird’, but not now.

Now what hits home is Saint Barbara
by Parmigianino,
a left profile. Her face shines with youth.
Braided, brown hair hangs on her
right shoulder. She’s holding – what? – a part

of the tower daddy’ll shut her up in.
Her upper lip curves over
slightly. She wears rather a chic pink
number, such an inward look.
She knows exactly what lies ahead.

And here, opposite Van der Weyden’s
flesh-heavy Deposition,
Robert Campin’s Annunciation.
Mary’s a blonde, long, straight hair,
bit plump. A nice girl lost in a book

and apparently quite unaware
of the heavenly rays round
her head, beamed down from top left,
or Gabriel patiently
kneeling, wings half-furled, with some pretty big news.

Harry Ricketts

Along River Road I

The cows are all pregnant
or oozing at the rear.

The milk truck is low-bellied.

My unborn son kicks my ribcage
like it was swinging cowboy doors.

We can hardly contain everything.

One stormy night the meat safe door flings open
with a hoarse shout

then sucks back impatiently through metal teeth.

When the sun comes it laps
against the hills –
it fills the valley.

My mother visits and kneels
at all these places:

where ferns grow in a circle of pongas
by the irises on the rise
at the cornflowers along the palings
at the fence where trembly calves patrol.

She brings me blackberries in a cup.
Lifts such sweet things for me to smell, to taste,
until I want to say I know nature is lovely

I know I know

but also strange and relentless and I long
for the settled grain of a page

for that big, still country
with its stable population.

Lynn Davidson


Eat the apple, then wait half an hour, then wade into what’s refreshing, what’s so refreshing, what’s so wonderfully refreshing. Until it turns cold. Watch the child who insists on carrying her own shoes, but forgets her towel. She will stay wet the whole ride home. And now, the sea is roaring. You will be swept away, but still, it was your choice to get in the water. Wasn’t it? There is no morality to the sea, but sometimes a story starts out that way.

Joan Fleming