Poem – C K Stead


(Janet Frame 1924-2004)


So, old friend, you’ve come to it at last
(Ron Mason’s line, and now an echo of Yeats!).
How does it feel to feel nothing?
No one will ask you to read, no unmarked sheet
will ever again reproach you.
You can ‘become your admirers.’

Somewhere along the way your brain got sparked
but your hair stood up for you.
You wrote of shame without shame.
‘Madness’ was the house of your self, the house of cards
falling whenever someone opened a door.

Remember the day of our disaster?
We sat in the hut and I criticised your poem.
Clumsy, literal, your junior in years and in pain
I’d thought it was what you wanted.

There were winged things in the garden, and
wilting leaves,
earth smells, compost, beans.
You sat in all your radium intensity,
in the brightness of mercury falling.
The thing you’d wanted was love!

I remember the walk home,
the glass verandah, matting on the walls,
and the view to Rangitoto.
Sea lanes were open
all the way to the World, those dark rough paths
we knew we’d have to travel.

Histories of the hive, the swallow’s flight,
the archives of the ant, even an ode of Keats –
all, I know, confirm it: the thing that happens
dies when it happens.
The thing that doesn’t happen lives for ever.


C K Stead

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