Poem — Anne French

The poetry reading at the end of the world

 

It is a very big anthology.
Everyone in the world who ever wrote
a poem is in it. I am, as it
happens, represented by something I’d
rather forget (that’s what comes of being

unctuous to editors.) Don’t smirk; so
are you, with a love poem dating from
your varsity days which you’d entirely
forgotten, though you remember the recipient
every time you see a woman

under the age of twenty-five with long
dark hair and a white neck. You stiffen with
recollection (look, you’ve done it again).
In the poem you said that you will ache
and throb with metaphysical desire

forever, or at least until you die.
This may be the only thing you’ve ever
been right about. As you survey the lineup
you begin to appreciate the
advantages of being dead.

Shssh!

Now in strict alphabetical order
they are reading them. Everyone gets their
fifteen minutes. First there is a man with
a soft Irish voice who reads a poem
about having sexual intercourse

with a foreign woman in a foreign
city, where it is very hot in the
evenings. He makes you feel the sweat running
between your shoulder-blades. The woman is
small and cinnamon-coloured and entirely

naked for the duration of the
poem. He wants us to admire her
and envy him, with his tongue stuck inside
her cinnamon-flavoured foreign parts. Afterwards
he does the only thing possible

under the circumstances, which is to
smoke the kind of cigarette they have there,
slim and brown and spicy. We inhale with
him, applaud him as he opens the door
of his taxi, saying ‘Take me to the

airport,’ to the driver. We know it was
too perfect ever to be repeated.
Even to phone her would be sacrilege.
This is sophistication. This surely
is savoir faire. Next, a young woman with

long dark hair and a white neck reads us a
poem written from the point of view of
an historical personage’s wife.
She complains vividly and at great length
about his cruelty to her and the

children. We squirm with embarrassment (or
could it be lust, considering the neck,
etc?) every time a child dies
pitifully and mutely. Somehow we
discern her complaint concerns somebody

a little closer at hand; such as the
Irish poet – or even you, perhaps.
Don’t forget we all have to read eventually.
How will you manage with the neck
now? Or would you like to borrow this one?

Anne French

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Poem
Search the archive
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Filter by Categories
Architecture
Art
Autobiography
Awards
Biography
Byline
Children
Comment
Contents
ebooks
Economics
Editorial
Education
Essays
Extract
Fiction
Gender
Graphic novel
Health
History
Imprints
Language
Lecture
Letters
Letters
Literature
Māori
Media
Memoir
Music
Natural History
Non-fiction
Obituaries
Opinion
Pacific
Photography
Plays
Poem
Poetry
Politics & Law
Psychology
Religion
Review
Science
Short stories
Sociology
Sport
War
YA Reviewers
Young adults
Recent issues: subscriber-only access

    Subscribe to NZ Books to access the issues above

    Search by category

    See more