Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Nicola Easthope on J. C. Sturm’s ‘Grieving, 1972’

 

 

 

Grieving, 1972

                  for Jim 

You — bugger

you — arsehole

you — stinking shithouse

 

Dying

  without me

Leaving

  me stranded

 

Having

  to keep on

Living

  without you

 

Knowing

  I’ll never

See you

  again

 

You bastard —

You bloody bastard you —

 

© J. C. Sturm, Dedications, Steele Roberts, 1996

 

 

I was in Opunake for a couple of nights camping in January, and as we passed Taranaki maunga on the way there, I remembered it was the tūrangawaewae of poet and fiction writer, Jacqueline (J.C.) Sturm.

P1010213.JPG

 

It’s something of a regret that we never crossed paths, despite both living on the Kāpiti Coast in the same early 2000s. I would have liked to thank her for this unforgettable poem, for the permission she gives herself – and, unwittingly, any poet who’s ever been silenced – to directly accuse, to swear, to rage and ache (I imagine from a west coast clifftop, face into the southerly wind whipping up volcanic blacksand)… in this case, at her loved, lionized, rogue husband, for dying without her.

There are so many layers here – her mantle of anger in the first, brilliant, versatile stanza, to the intimate, broken heart of the poem, and back to the cursing, in an emphatic finale. Such a satisfying poem.

‘Grieving, 1972’ has a companion in ‘And again, 1989’ – here, Sturm returns to the subject of her grief, but now the pain has significantly lessened, maybe almost gone. May it be so.

In celebration of the life and work of Jacqueline Sturm, let’s seek out copies of Dedications and Postscripts again; open their pages to the fresh air.

 

Nicola Easthope, 20 February 2019

 

 

And again, 1989

for Jim

It is all so different now.

I cannot swear

With such conviction

Nor do I thirst

So savagely for blood,

Anybody’s blood,

Or recompense

At anyone’s expense.

 

The trail is too old

Too cold

To follow as I used to

Taking directions from friends

And the not so friendly

(You were seen there

Doing that with them

The day before the day — )

 

Searching, combing

The landscape of my mind

Over and over again,

Desperate to find

The reason for your going

Or just to hear,

Still lingering

On the listening wind,

An echo of your voice.

 

Nor do I dream any more

Of finding that small

Very ordinary house

And those nervous strangers

Showing me where

You lay down

The last time.

 

It is all so different

Except, of course

You are there

 And I am still here

Waiting,

And only God knows

(I do not ask to be told)

When, in his good time

This too will be different.

 

© J. C. Sturm, Dedications, Steele Roberts, 1996

 

J. C. Sturm (Jacqueline Cecilia) (1927–2009), of Taranaki iwi, Parihaka and Whakatōhea descent, was born in Opunake and is thought to be the first Māori woman to graduate with an MA from a New Zealand university (First Class Hons, Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington). She initially wrote short fiction, and her work was the first by a Māori to appear in an anthology. Her debut poetry collection, Dedications (Steele Roberts, 1996), received an Honour Award at the 1997 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and she published further collections of poetry and short stories. Her poetry appeared in a number of anthologies and journals. Her collection, Postscripts (Steele Roberts, 2000), includes images by her son John Baxter. She received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington, worked as a librarian, was married to James K Baxter and had two children.

Poems published with kind permission from the estate of J. C. Sturm.

 

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cover by John Baxter

 

Te Ara page on J. C. Sturm by Paul Millar

NZ Book Council page

 

 

 

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