Midweek. Midwinter. The village
is pared back. At dusk
the houses on the hill go black.
Only here and there a window shines
and a slippered lighthouse keeper shuffles
between chair and cupboard, bath and bed.
In the bay the fishing boats lilt at anchor.
Beneath their hulls the ocean shifts in sleep.
Ale-bellied, full, we take our tavern talk outside,
searching for it on the stone stoop beneath the stars.
Still they are lost, the words we want
for that thing on the wall inside and what it did
although they knock and knock, these words,
behind the tongue. The boat ramp stinks of brine.
The moon rises slow and golden from the headland.
Old eye. The dock is matted with weed and slime.
Queen’s shilling. Shanghai. Press gang. Cosh.
The words we’ve been casting for are caught.
Deckloads of the disappeared come up now on the hook.
The bay’s awash with them, awash.
Sue Wootton ( suewootton.com ) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and the following year her poetry collection The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the poetry category of these awards. She is co-editor of the e-zine Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, found at corpus.nz
The poem ‘At Moeraki’ was shortlisted for the 2019 University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize.