Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Lynn Jenner’s ‘On joy and other obligations’


On joy and other obligations [1]


If you open a book that has been closed for forty-four years, if dust floats in the sunlight, if the book sold in 1969 for $1.60, and you buy it second-hand for $10, that might be your good fortune. If there is a tiny segmented weevil in the dusty space between the binding and the cover, if the worm lifts its head, if you raise your hand to kill the worm but pause instead, that might also be your good fortune. There is no such thing as a life that means nothing, the worm says in its airy voice.

I see that I disgust you, the worm says. Do what you must. But in the blood, the blood, the stream, the river, I am you and you are also me. Every life contains the memory of countless other lives; lives we knew, deaths we mourn and those behind the door. Perhaps, after all, a cosmos binds and holds us all together, whatever death may report?

Bend your neck, pause long enough to say your own name, and raise your head again. In the presence of the river, of pieces of bone, fish hooks and the skeletons of tiny glassy fish, this movement is required of you. Also, near towns where your ancestors died, take off your sandals so that mud and blood and salt water will soak your skin.

Light will slowly fade as winter comes. Clouds will cover the moon. Winter of earth, winter of sky, winter of hope, winter of loss, winter of exile, winter of silence, winter of anger. Winter of such faint light, winter of waiting, winter of longing. In these short days, people will travel together for safety but will be beaten down by soldiers and armies of words. There is no forgiveness. Rain never stops, rivers run to flood, run underground and swell the sea. To endure is the thing.

Ah, but joy has a new shoot. In the bush, cabbage trees flower and a breeze blows their sweet pink perfume along your path. Someone of ninety makes marmalade, there is a yellow bowl of persimmons and three blackbirds on the table outside. It doesn’t always come back to you, Rilke says, Brasch says, the worm says. Leaves of giant flax rattle and clack. Green is dark and wild. Joy is a single tūī, two fantails, a cloud like a child’s drawing. On your last day, you may see a vermillion sky.

Speak like Auden of human kind in all its endeavours, of all its want and weakness, speak when it seems there may be a new war and everything is advertising and resignation. Pain and love through dark glasses, that is your business. Or, like Blake, go inside the vault of your head to where the visions start. Walk with the dead, hold their hands, dance until you cannot tell them from yourself. Record an image, a young woman stepping down from a bus. Can you call her back? To name, to try, to do, is the thing.


©Lynn Jenner



[1] This poem was inspired by and borrows significantly from poems in Charles Brasch’s collection Not Far Off, Caxton Press (1969), especially ‘A Closed Book’. ‘O lucky man’ and ‘Homage to Rilke’ from Riemke Ensing’s 2009 poetry collection O Lucky Man, poems for Charles Brasch, Otakou Press (2009) and Ruth Dallas’s poem ‘Last Letter, for Charles Brasch, 1909-1973’, in Ruth Dallas Collected Poems, Otago University press (1987), have also left their mark.

‘On joy and other obligations’ is from PEAT, Lynn’s forthcoming book.



Lynn Jenner’s new book Peat, a collection of essays, prose poems and glossaries about the poet Charles Brasch and the Kāpiti Expressway, will be published by Otago University Press in 2019. Lynn’s first book Dear Sweet Harry (AUP 2010) won the NZSA Jessie MacKay prize for the best first book of poetry. Her second book, Lost and Gone Away (AUP 2015), was a finalist in the non-fiction section of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2016. Lynn has a PhD from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She teaches creative writing and mentors writers. Lynn’s author website












Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Tracey Slaughter’s ‘it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out’



it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out




me & Karen Carpenter

blu-tacked heartthrobs

to the hangout

wall & laid down

under our own gatefold

smiles. The ridges of our mouths

tasted like corduroy & the hangout

door was a polygon of un-hinged

ultra-violet. We stole lines from stones

& rolled them like acid

checkers on each

other’s tongues, testing

the discs of our tucked spines as we

swallowed. We rippled all through

the magazines: there were morsels of cosmetic

Top Tip to live on. We loaded our skin

& rubbed in the limits like cream, microscoped

for layouts of handbag & muscle. We could

not switch off the mirrors: it turned out

since me & Karen C

were kids we’d sucked on dolls cross

legged & shaved their limbs

to size with the

zip of our teeth. Somewhere

our mothers had bleach

dreams. We lay & grinned

on the oblong of leftover

shagpile. The seventies tasted

like orangeade, like groovy wars & honeybrown

explosions in the wallpaper. Karen

Carpenter held my hand & walked me

through the detonating spirals.

She showed me where

we could feast

on tangerine horizons


©Tracey Slaughter


Tracey Slaughter is the author of deleted scenes for lovers an acclaimed collection of short stories (VUP, 2016). Her poetry and prose have received many awards including the international Bridport Prize (2014), two BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards, and the Landfall Essay Prize 2015. Her poetry cycle ‘it was the seventies when me & Karen Carpenter hung out’ was shortlisted in the Manchester Poetry Prize 2014, and her poem ‘breather’ won Second Place in the ABR Peter Porter Poetry Prize 2018. She teaches at Waikato University where she edits the journal Mayhem.




Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Kerry Hines’ All-day Wayside



All-day Wayside


He walks in, takes a seat,

eats his pie.


He smiles but doesn’t speak

until his farewell thanks.


He looks like someone off TV,

but they can’t agree on who.


Did you see how quick he ate it?

She shakes her head, disbelieving.


Nothing to drink, just pie

and free tomato sauce.




Not yet half-way,

a family squares off.


Soggy chips, nachos

missing a couple of ingredients.


Forbidden phones, the kids

play with their food.


An unhappier couple sits

at the next table.


The father sighs; the mother

brightens, and tunes in.




They closed the café

half an hour early.


The traffic had been quiet a while,

and the sausage rolls had gone.


Finding the door locked, he turns

and pans the street.


It’s the service station, then, packet of chips

and a chocolate bar.


He parks himself at the picnic table,

but the view doesn’t satisfy him.


©Kerry Hines



Kerry Hines is a Wellington-based poet, writer and researcher. Her collection Young Country (poems with photographs by William Williams) was published by AUP in 2014.