Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Lydia Wevers picks Jenny Bornholdt

Then Murray came


It was the morning for

selling the car, but

when I went out to start it,

it wouldn’t go. Greg went

to get petrol on the bike. I

rang the A.A. Then Ray

arrived. I said I’m sorry, he

said don’t worry and looked at

the car and at the wheels and

in the boot and said she’s a lovely

old thing. He tapped the coil

and the fuel pump to try to

make it go. Greg came back

with petrol, but that didn’t help.

Then, because there was nothing else

to do, we went inside and had coffee

and Ray smoked and talked about

going to Outward Bound and sleeping

and losing a stone.


Then Murray came.

He drove up the hill in his yellow

A.A. car, shaking his head. Got out and said

I was sure you were having me on. Last time I was

here you said you were selling it

and the other day I saw you walking

through town and I thought ‘thank god she’s

sold that thing’. He cleaned the carburettor

and laughed. Put more petrol in, replaced a

filter. I said I wasn’t joking, there’s

someone here who wants to buy it. Murray

laughed and said sure. No, no, I said, it’s

true. Ray. See, there he is, up at the

window. Murray looked up and Greg and Ray

waved. How much is he paying for it? asked

Murray. I started to say and he stopped

me. Said no, on second thoughts, don’t tell

me. I don’t want to hear about this.

Ray came down and took over

holding up the bonnet of the car.

What’s your name? he asked Murray.

Murray, said Murray. Well I’m

Ray, this is Greg and this is

Jen. Hello Murray, we said.

And then the car started.


©Jenny Bornholdt from How We Met, Victoria University Press, 1995




Note from Lydia: I laughed aloud when I first read this poem. Selling a car which won’t start, Greg getting petrol on the bike, Ray smoking and talking about Outward Bound, it is a micronarrative of intense suburban familiarity and yet… also heroic (‘then Murray came’), touching about relationships (‘ I thought thank god she’s sold that thing’ ) and an acute register of local idiom while also suggesting the Pinteresque deeps that lie behind what is said. How much is he paying for it?  asked Murray…no, on second thoughts don’t tell me’.

‘Then Murray came’ has lodged in my head. It shows me the world I live in, but freshly, deeply, newly, wittily. And at the end, after Murray has come (I’d like to know Murray) the car starts.


Lydia Wevers has recently retired as the Director of the Stout Research Centre at Victoria. She is a lifelong reader of New  Zealand writing and a literary historian.


Jenny Bornholdt has published ten books of poems, the most recent of which is Selected Poems. Her collection The Rocky Shore was a made up of six long poems and won the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2009.

She is the co-editor of My Heart Goes Swimming: New Zealand Love Poems and the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English.

Jenny’s poems have appeared on ceramics, on a house, on paintings, in the foyer of a building and in letterpress books alongside drawings and photographs. She has also written two children’s books.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s