Poetry Shelf archives: Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor celebrates Olivia Macassey’s ‘Outhwaite Park’


Outhwaite Park         



and three cheers for the old neighbourhood

clawing its way through the dirt and the


houses that squat where the vacant lots reflected us


and three shadows

for the people we used to be, for

rice and dope and chilli olives, three shadows

for your silhouette, with its cigarette, for the sound

of a swing at midnight

the sound of a swing when the swinger is crying


three sighs for the stubborn authenticity of a face

harsh with streetlights

the horrors of a clarinet

devastating revelations

and for the lies, for the unmoved trees

which made it all seem underwater

for the melancholy see-saws and the warm air, for her dress

in the crooked oblong of doorway, her crooked dress

in the yellow of the door

the stumbling between houses, clutching salads and lovers

the bodies passed out on our floors


three tears

for the pale orange poppies

that bloom where you kissed me

bloom where you kissed me


and three tears

for the people we used to fuck

for backbones scraped on the washing machine

for the strangers who slept outside your bedroom door

and the schoolgirls and drag queens playing table tennis

and the cockroaches breeding in the microwave;


and the four am trains and six am buses,

mint icecreams, roofs of carparks, moulting hedgehogs

lit by the phonebox, the grass overrun by wirewoves

and rotting cardboard, my summer clothes, my love —


and tunnels we crept through at dawn, birds which sang blind in the dark

the refrigerator with its empty hum, before we borrowed credibility,

we had the insane faces of barbie dolls, the overpainted walls

and exploding demolition fires

we had stones in our shoes and delinquents in our ceilings

catching our prayers before they got to the sky,

and that bridge most of us

never jumped from, we were saving it for a rainy day,


yeah three tears for the old neighbourhood

clawing its way through the dirt

and the park

that I see and can never return to

that stage on which all our memories were undone,


and I am again in the wood chips at midnight

with my neck pressed against the silence of your mouth

and I am again on the swing at dawn

watching the policeman make his way across the grass


Olivia Macassey

appeared in New New Zealand Poets in Performance, ed. Jack Ross and Jan Kemp (Auckland: AUP, 2008)



Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor:

I first heard this poem in Tracey Slaughter’s creative writing class, and I still remember the shiver down my spine. There were those neighbourhoods like mine right there in the lecture hall and this voice that talked a bit like how I talked: yeah. It was one of those poems that you read at the exact right moment, and it was the first that I printed out and carried with me.
It’s beautiful and sort of pining, but all the same gritted and stubborn. It’s got this sort of nostalgia, but with claws. The parties, but also the grubby silences after them, the confetti and the roaches and the cardboard rotting lonely in the corner. The impossibility of going back, but also the impossibility of wholly forgetting: ‘The park that I see and can never return to’. It was the first time I remember seeing repetition in a poem and really loving it. The first poem I read out loud again and again. That rhythm, that imagery, those final lines. The white space after them. Those echoes in the half-dark. I come back to this poem often.



Olivia Macassey‘s work has appeared in Takahē, Rabbit, Poetry New Zealand, Otoliths, Ngā Kupu Waikato, Landfall and elsewhere. Her books are The Burnt Hotel and Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor was awarded the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition, and the 2017 Monash Prize for Emerging Writers. Her poem ‘Instructions’ was named by The Spinoff as the best poem of 2018, and she took up The Spinoff Review of Books Writer-in-Residence Award at the start of 2019. Her work has appeared in Starling, Mayhem, Brief, Poetry New Zealand, Landfall, Turbine, Mimicry, Min-a-rets, Sweet Mammalian, Sport and Verge. She writes thanks to the tireless support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.

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