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The School

Inside the chalk, a hundred numbers,
marks which want to be words.

The teacher writing speech.

Inside the chalk . . . also a river.
Inside the river . . . the hurry of sky!

And now it is lunchtime, and we are hungry.
Bubble and squeak, says the chalk.

Bubble and squeak.

 

My Girl

My girl, she looks like the government,
white and the high far towers.
She eats everything in sight and looks for more.
Always she ignores me.
Yes, that’s the government.

My girl she looks like Alaska
a long way off where the oil is
and the white bears are dying.
They swim and they swim to an ice that won’t be there.
She goes to and fro in her kayak.

I can hear her crying:
we will all live in the water now.
She stitches the land to a spell.
Change the world, she says.
Squid like some soft candelabra.

Do it later now.

 

Talking to the Moon

But the moon has drifted out to sea.
It doesn’t know what will make me happy.

 

After Montale

Winter lasts and lasts
and there are bits of sun.
Someone made up the universe,
maybe us!

And yet we believe
in this crap
and that crap
and either way

the gods are tired,
turning from
wives and children,
from the high grey pillow

and the missing light,
and yes, they say, we turn
and turn, and look at last
we’re out of work.

 

[Bill Manhire was New Zealand's inaugural Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate, and is a four-time winner of the New Zealand Book Award for poetry. His prizewinning fiction has been published in Britain and the USA, and he is also well known for such bestselling anthologies as 100 New Zealand Poems, Six by Six, and Some Other Country. His Collected Poems was published by Victoria University Press and Carcanet.]

Copyright © 2009 by Bill Manhire, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.