Tag Archives: Monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Vanessa Crofskey’s ‘The Capital of My Mother’


The Capital of My Mother


My mother is born in the capital of Malaysia

her own umbilical cord tied to a deflating sun


In her country, the heat is wet

the air is heady

the sweat on my back is hereditary


I know no kin except blood tied to bone

my water body leaks red and diaspora yellow

my eyes are globes


Karl, my brother, is turning seven.

We sit in the muggy backyard of our grandparents

house in Kuala Lumpur


Kuala Lumpur means muddy confluence

The city is born from the place two rivers

merge then flow


I am the point two paths cross just to separate

byproduct of my parents’ relations

divorce impeding

my mother’s birthplace


They say all rivers flow to sea

I cannot find home except the sense

of somewhere I can’t reach

I am a migrant’s remembrance

I am a welcome party.


The kettle is boiling and it is time in slow motion

It is the noise of my grandma learning English

off my five years old cousin


Her R’s are a dysfunctional lawnmower

explaining wet season, sticky rice, banana leaf


Across the phone

in my privileged NZ accent

I talk about burgers, flat whites, fries with aioli.


We don’t speak the same language

but we do share the same ocean

when I say noodles she knows exactly what I mean.


Potluck is God doing dishes

Migration is the earth stirring flavour

Clepsydra is a clock that runs from dripping liquid

Its name means water thief


Across boats, migrants tell time by the second

and we call them thieves for different reasons


The first house I live in is a transported container

stolen body, claimed land, white heartbeat


Decades are tides that rock us to sleep

except landlocked I cannot dream

except I’ve a fear of the open sea

accept that you are dry land

still amniotic




I’ve worn ships not shoes since the minute

I was aware of my own unbound feet


Only a daughter’s daughter’s body

arriving to this space every century


The harbour is a welcome mat

for a new placenta


I spit in it

and let the land claim my whole front teeth


Vanessa Crofskey


Vanessa Crofskey is a poet and artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She was the Auckland Regional Slam Champion for 2017 and won Best Spoken Word / Storytelling at Auckland Fringe Festival that same year. Vanessa has written for multiple publications including Turbine | Kapohau, The Pantograph Punch, Starling, Hamster Mag, Hainamana, East Lit, SCUM Mag and Dear Journal. She tends to write about water, intimacy and violence.







Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Harry Ricketts’s ‘Ginny’s Garden’


 Ginny’s Garden

(for Ginny Sullivan, 1950-2017)


Magpies quardle-oodle in the high firs.

Down here, under the overhang, it’s hot,


looking out over the lawn Karen says she cut

two weeks ago, and already thick, clumpy,


to the paddock where Friendly, the seven-year-old ewe

that you couldn’t bear to send to the butcher,


baas by the fence for kale and attention.

The veggies you planted have gone mad:


tomatoes big as butternuts; huge, shiny aubergines;

giant marrows; cabbage whites all over the basil.


In the Pears’ Soap poster in the bathroom,

two small girls still stare at large bubbles.



Harry Ricketts



Harry Ricketts teaches English literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. His latest collection, Winter Eyes, has been longlisted for this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.





Poetry Shelf Monday poem: from Amy Brown’s Neon Daze

Excerpt from Neon Daze


8th December 2016


A friend warned me months ago

that my baby would start to smell

of other people – perfumes, creams,

colognes, sweat – your baby’s head

will press against strangers’ throats

and décolletage, held close and warm.

Sure enough I recognised the musky,

woody scent of our family friend in his hair

and skin yesterday long after she’d left.

Babies are olfactory creatures, happiest

emanating their own or their parents’

odour. We squirt Johnson’s shampoo

under the running tap for the manuka

sweetness it leaves behind his ears.

Now, he is strapped against me and

I am afraid the sunscreen on my chest

will distract from the baked tussock,

sandy fragrance fresh and familiar

as a wave [1], blue and white as the baby’s

eyes. We walk along Ocean Beach towards

Cape Kidnappers, which is only ever a haze

of coast in the distance, past macrocarpas,

painted black in the Dick Frizzell print

on my parents’ bedroom wall. We walk and

the baby’s sleeping cheek sticks to my skin.




[1] To Wave

To move to and fro, from the Old Norse vagr meaning billowing water. Waves, Robin, look! I told him today, both of us squinting into the glare of the mid-morning horizon, paddling along the edge of the Bass Strait. His right hand lifted and twisted back and forth, to and fro at the breakers.

I am wavering between then and now. This is our third time at Skene’s Creek. The first was the first weekend away with my partner – my first conventional weekend away with any partner. He booked a cabin whose view from the bedroom window was dense and private with eucalypts and which was all sea and sky from the balcony, where I sat typing away at my thesis with a beer while he barbecued us fresh fish. I had about $36 in my bank account then and was both luxuriating in and anxious about the incongruity of this experience. In the spa bath we sucked each other’s toes and played lavishly with the jets. The photos I took were all of us – our feet the same size and sandy, only distinguishable by my red nail polish; him on the swing, a joyful blur of beard and beer.

The second time we came to this beach we stayed at the same cabin, but the weather was miserable. I photographed the food we made and the special bottle of wine we drank and my partner’s back as he walked away from me in his red jacket along the deserted beach. We brought our yoga mats and held postures together while rain hung white in the trees, obscuring the sea. I had just got my period for the twelfth time of hoping it wouldn’t come and was allowing myself to drink the wine, which tasted of nothing. We still didn’t know why I wasn’t getting pregnant, or how to fix it, or how lucky we would be when the weeks of injections started.

This time we are staying in a family’s beach house. I move the bowls of shells and driftwood ornaments to higher ground. My partner blocks the steps from the deck to the wild garden with three chairs. We coax our toddler to not use the length of timber dowel locking the sliding door in place to drum on the glass coffee table. We find empty snail shells, stones of all varieties and point at the sulphur-yellow underside of the wings of the cockatoos, which shriek en masse as they fly. I photograph the baby in the hammock, the baby in the sea, the baby scooping sand into his bucket; his face is always behind a broad-brimmed sunhat patterned with leaves. After seven, when Robin is asleep, we play quiet games of Scrabble and Monopoly at the outdoor table, drinking wine and eating chocolate to keep warm. On every visit I’ve forgotten how cold the beach gets at night and pack inadequately. This time I bring socks but no shoes, and many T-shirts but no heavy jersey. Like an eighteen-month-old I wear socks and sandals and eccentric layers. To warm up after swimming in the sea, we all shower together. I show Robin how I wash my face by closing my eyes and dipping my head under the stream. Nick demonstrates how he washes his face, carefully with a flannel. We both applaud when Robin’s wet eyelashes open and he smiles.





9th December 2016


There are creases in the back

of my father’s tanned neck, like

Hemingway’s old man. He spends

two hours longer than usual out

in his boat, trying to catch enough

kahawai for our dinner. It is filleted,

barbecued and served with a Persian

marinade from a cookbook I gave

my mother two Christmases ago.

The recipe calls for dried rose petals.

She laid them out in the sun (and

later microwave, to speed the process)

herself, picked from her own garden.

She lets the baby take handfuls

of petals off the aging bunch in

the dining room. He scatters them

romantically across the floorboards.

Later, I find one still clutched, bruised

perfumed and bright as blood in his fist.


Amy Brown



Amy Brown lives in Melbourne, where she teaches literature and philosophy. Her first poetry collection, The Propaganda Poster Girl (Victoria University Press, 2008), was shortlisted for a Montana New Zealand Book Award in 2009. Her next work of poetry, The Odour of Sanctity (Victoria University Press, 2013) was the creative component of a PhD on contemporary epic poetry. Her next book, Neon Daze, will be released by Victoria University Press in 2019.













Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: essa may ranapiri



for Sam Duckor-Jones


Pomīahias is in the garage molding
little men into being
fingers slick with clay
drying gradual into dust
the light casts shadows to move
the roller door is open to let the air in

he admires all the fishing rods
his lover has hung from the wall

Maui has caught some big ones
in his day

he sits his tiny figure up on the shelf
with the others
he can see it on their faces
(scrunched fingernail detailing)
they all want something
he isn’t sure he’s allowed to give

could he be as brave to draw a world
over the horizon against its will?


©essa may ranapiri




essa may ranapiri (takatāpui; they/them/ theirs) is a poet from Kirikiriroa. They have words in Mayhem, Poetry NZ, Brief, Starling, THEM and POETRY Magazine, and their debut collection RANSACK will be published by Victoria University Press in 2019.







Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Charlotte Simmonds’s ‘Kirsten’




Says she has a small dog.

You would like a small dog.

Will Kirsten let you walk her small dog?

Will she let you play with it?

But what if Kirsten’s small dog doesn’t like you.

What if it rejects you.

Rejection is so painful and hard to bear.

It feels like you are dying.

You are dying.


If you were in ‘the wild’, ostracism would mean certain death.

If you were in ‘the wild’, it would be hard for you to feed and shelter yourself adequately.

If you were in ‘the wild’, and then you got an injury, you would be really screwed.

If you were in ‘the wild’, no one would be able to help you.

If you were in ‘the wild’, you would be dead by now.

If you were in ‘the wild’, wild dogs who were in the wild would feed on you.

If you were in ‘the wild’, you could productively give back to the wild.

If you were in ‘the wild’, you could help everyone.


You could help everyone except the runt of the litter.

The runt of the litter is too small to feed on you.

His elder siblings shove him rudely out of the way.

His mother no longer loves him because she does not buy into that sunk cost fallacy.

The runt of the litter is excluded, cast out, ostracised, just like you.

He never meets another runt of the litter.

They never hump, conceive, give birth to even runtier runts.

All the small dogs of the world die out.

In the wild, all the small dogs are dead because your body was too small, there was not enough to go round, they could not feed on your body.

You’d think Kirsten’s small dog would like you, because it, too, in the wild, would know the pain of rejection, like you.

But it doesn’t. It blames you.

Kirsten’s small dog thinks this is all your fault.


©Charlotte Simmonds





Charlotte Simmonds is a (currently) “autistic” Wellington writer, translator, sometime researcher and intermittent theatre practitioner. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry has appeared on stage at BATS Theatre in Wellington, in New Zealand podcasts, on New Zealand poetry blogs The Red Room and Poetry Shelf, in New Zealand literary journals Landfall, Hue & Cry, Sport, Turbine and JAAM, in Usonian literary journals The Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride and Broad Street, and in the UK journal Flash. She is the author of one published collection of poetry and lyric prose, The World’s Fastest Flower, a finalist in the Montana Book Awards in 2009, and was more recently shortlisted for an Australian short story prize.







Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Albert Wendt’s ‘Packs’





We try to breath as long as technology

and medicine can stretch it

and don’t know why we are wretched with anxiety


Every dawn in Samoa the neighbourhood packs of dogs

cracked open our sleep:  barking  howling  yelping  screeching

Theirs was the desperation of hunger and ill-treatment

I needed to quench the undeniable accusation in their howling


Now back in our safe Ponsonby bedroom the spring dawn sprawls

across our bed and refuses to leave but it will be swallowed up

eventually by the morning and our need to walk out

into the embracing routines of our tidy lives


The packs will continue to stalk us with their slow howling


No set plan or final intention

Just let go – just let it go  all of it

even the accusing packs


It will not come again


©Albert Wendt  (August-Sept, 2017)  (November 2018)


Albert Wendt has published many novels, collections of poetry and short stories, and edited numerous anthologies. In 2018, along with four others, he was recognised as a New Zealand Icon at a medallion ceremony for his significant contribution to the Arts.












Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Emma Shi’s ‘he called me darling’



he called me darling


after the earth stopped spinning, so did the birds and the sky and the sea. the seasons stayed in place, stuck in time, and the birds stopped following their patterns of flight. instead, they started to settle in entire trees at a time, watching everyone who walked past. each bird wore a plume of white on their chest and they sang songs every morning. and i would let them land on my bare arms when i passed, their claws pressing against my own beating veins.


it was summer forever. i spent every day outside, sending kisses to the birds and you. each morning, the sun hung the clouds up onto the sky and made sure that each cloud was perfectly still. they stayed the same puffy white, never to be grey again. and the stars spilled paint around them so that the sky was the same endless shade of blue. it was a blue that spoke of infinity even if we weren’t a part of it. and you would drive me to all the beaches we could find, threading our lives around the shoreline.


in this new summer, it was impossible to drown. the ocean was just as still as the clouds. we swam through seas that felt no waves, that seemed to have never experienced the feeling of rip tides. every time i felt like i was being pulled underwater, the ocean would lift me back up. we could have stayed there forever, floating safely in expanses that i used to be afraid of, kissing and tasting saltwater.


late one night, you were driving me home. the blue of day had already phased back into a dark navy hours ago, but i didn’t want to leave yet. so you decided to take us back to one of our beaches. it was the middle of the night and we were the only source of movement. the headlights of your car revealed the edges of the beach, but the light wasn’t enough to show the true colours of the sand. because of that, everything looked grey. i didn’t know if i could have found the sea if i had stepped out and onto that new earth. in the distance, the moonlight reflected off the ocean when it hushed. and all at once, it reminded me of a different time, another summer. you called me darling and i swear if those birds were there with me on that night, they would have sung with joy. still, when time had passed and you started to drive us away from the sea, i felt a lump in my throat. i paused for a moment, then swallowed it down. i knew it wasn’t the real goodbye yet. but it lingered.


it had been summer for months when the birds started whispering things in my ear. and i whispered back to them, what are you trying to say? their eyes flickered from me to you and back again. you were looking out at the ocean, almost as still as the frozen waves. but when you noticed me staring, you turned and smiled. there was a little patch of red on the side of your neck from one time when we stayed at the beach for too long, and we fell asleep under your favourite star. i smiled within that blurry space, that incoherent moment where we had been together for millennia. then i turned my head to the sky. and i knew that i was lucky.


when all the flowers that spring gave us finally fell, the wind whirled them into vortexes and rushed them together so that it all looked like snow. white petals landed in my hair and the bees mistook me for flowers, rubbing against my skin only to feel the rough edges of human touch. i would have to get used to the empty spaces, our detached strings. and until those delicate petals stopped reminding me of the sunshine, i would have to avert my eyes from the birds and the songs that they sang like honeyed grace, whispering distant memories of summer.



©Emma Shi




Emma Shi was the winner of the National Schools Poetry Award 2013 and the Poetry NZ Prize 2017. She has also been published in literary journals such as Landfall and Starling. Emma writes here.











Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: from Gregory Kan





Moving from one world to another

is like dying in a dream

of hands and water.

Nothing is forgiven because

nothing is remembered

but the desires remain the same:

to be in a room with others


tired of wonder

holding each other

with the good secret

of no longer having to insist on going

where we think we have to go.




©Gregory Kan

Gregory Kan’s work has featured in literary journals including Atlanta Review, Cordite, Jacket, Landfall, The Listener, SPORT and Best New Zealand Poems, as well as art exhibitions, journals and catalogues. His first book of poetry, This Paper Boat, was shortlisted for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His second book of poetry, Under Glass, is forthcoming with Auckland University Press in 2019.








Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Heidi North’s ‘Piha Beach, Winter’


Piha Beach, Winter 


My feet punch bruises in the black sand

and I am back in the burn of childhood summers


the circle of sentinel gulls

their grey wings tipped to catch the light


warn me back

but I go down to the white foam edge


bluebottles boated with their pretty poison

yield to the sharp edge of my stick


I go down to the place

where the wind kicks holes through my heart


and there is a child down there

too close to the ribbony horizon line


holding his blue kite

towards the updraft


still smiling as it lurches

against the wide white blaze of sky –


and I smile and laugh and I run with him because how can I tell him

all the brutal things are yet to come


©Heidi North


Heidi’s poem was written during her Nancy King Foundation residency in Piha in 2017.

Heidi North’s first poetry book Possibility of Flight was published by Mākaro Press in 2015. Her poetry and short stories have been published in New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK. She won an international Irish award for her poetry in 2007, and has won New Zealand awards for her short fiction. She joined the Shanghai International Writers Programme in 2016 as the NZ fellow. She was awarded the Hachette/NZSA mentorship for 2017 to work on her first novel. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Auckland and lives in Auckland with her partner and their two children.




Monday Poem: Steven Toussaint’s ‘The Neoplatonist Theatre’





In the neoplatonist theatre

audience exists, a couple


of victims of the new

conscription, waiving


all their outrage,

waiting in the cockpit.


One’s a former gallery

serf, feeding frozen


grapes to animals

not born to work


their mandibles that way.

One expresses gently


the gland whence prayers

discharge, a man


who sits and glares

at his companion, lost


in the foreignness

and novelty of names


his gland would praise

but can’t forgive.


Some overeager, out-

of-tune apologist


announces tea

and biscuits in the vestibule.


Neither budge, rooted

in middlebrow certainty


that a single righteous

and timely volume


of samizdat applause, lodged

like a socket wrench


in the uptake, would stay

the launch of a still


more secretive

and stylized soliloquy.


©Steven Toussaint


Steven Toussaint was born in Chicago in 1986. His books include Fiddlehead (Compound Press, 2014) and The Bellfounder (The Cultural Society, 2015). He lives with his wife, the writer Eleanor Catton, in Auckland.