Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Tim Upperton’s ‘Television’


Inside the television the tiny people

are moving and talking. Some of them

are falling in love. Some of them are dying

in exciting ways. The cartoon people

who fall off a cliff or are hit by a train

get up again, scowling but unharmed.

There are also tiny animals.

They live in documentaries.

They hunt and fall in love and die.

They do not get up again.

At night the television is turned off

and all the people and all the animals

lie down and go to sleep.

The people sleep in tiny houses.

The animals sleep in and under tiny trees.

It is crowded inside the television,

but they are all used to it

and they make do, they settle down

under their tiny night sky,

with its tiny stars.

Who would not wish

to join them there?

A young woman with wet hair

climbs out of the television

into a living room,

her long hair and sodden dress

are dripping water on the floor,

and that is a horror movie.

But more and more of us

are going into the television,

and the young woman will soon

be alone in the world.

She wanders from empty house

to empty house, testing the abandoned

appliances. She picks up the remote

and switches the television on,

but then she is bored

and switches it off.

There is nothing to be afraid of

inside the television. It’s quite all right.

Good night, we tiny people

say to each other.

Good night, the tiny animals

growl and squeak and purr.

The television is dark now.

Good night.

Tim Upperton (an earlier version of this poe appeared in takahē 98)

Tim Upperton lives in Palmerston North. His second poetry collection, The Night We Ate The Baby, was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016, and he won the Caselberg International Poetry Prize in 2012, 2013 and 2020. His poems have been published in many magazines including Agni, Poetry, Shenandoah, Sport, Landfall and Takahē, and are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (2011), Villanelles (2012), Essential New Zealand Poems (2014), and Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (2014). His poem “The truth about Palmerston North” was recently recorded by Sam Neill here.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s