Poem Friday: Jessica Le Bas’ ‘Aroa Beach’ Its opening lines are effervescent with possibilities

Photo 21




            dealing sheep

            the ace of moon



The first night the tiny ants came

like a weak shadow. They drew lines on the wall

In the light that visited with part of a moon

you read their stories


The sun crept in during the night

Had its eyes closed tight, but it was there

never letting the day go. Simmering heat, a chorus of bugs

By dawn the sheets were abandoned


The second night was naked

Limbs cast off from your wet body, sailed ashore

in search of a cool zone. The morning light

came without land


The third night was opened under dusk

And inside, wrapped raw and true was the lightweight relief

of new dreams, and a ‘see through blue’ ocean

as soft as a song.


Bio Note: Jessica Le Bas’s first collection of poetry, incognito (AUP) won the Jessie MacKay Award. Walking to Africa, about mental health in adolescence, was a finalist in the Ashton Wylie Book Awards. She also writes children’s fiction, Staying Home (Penguin), and lives in Nelson

Author’s Note: I recently lived and worked in the beautiful Rarotonga for a year. The week I arrived the temperatures were in the high thirties, with little reprieve at night. I couldn’t sleep, as much from the heat and excitement, as from a fascination with new light and shadows, new sounds, and an army of ants that came nightly to watch over me. It took a while to find the ebb of my new life, at which point it felt like I had been dealt the ace, the top card!

Paula’s Note: Jessica’s poetry has always caught me, whether in terms of lithe sounds or missing pieces or shimmering images. This poem is no exception. There is a delicious movement between a facade of simplicity and a billowing knot of complexity. There is equally delicious restraint. The luminous details represent a world at a slight tilt where everything seems marvellous, strange, significant, legible, illegible. The poem is like a pocket narrative that gains life through its startling images. Its opening lines are effervescent with possibilities—as is the poem. You could move in any direction. That is the joy of poetry. You are led into the blurred edges of night, of a dream state where topsy turvyness (the sun in the night) underlines the relentless grip of heat. Or where dreams, against all odds, lay down (‘the lightweight relief’) the tracks to epiphany. Wonderful!

Auckland University Press page

Blackmail Press poem

Radio NZ interview

Jessica on rhythm for The Nelson Mail

NZETC page




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