Poem – C K Stead

The rower


Did grandfather Stead
(she wants to know)
row for Oxford

or Cambridge – or
(as sometimes asserted)
for one then

the other? These
claims for him I long
ago dismissed

but she’s heard there’s
a pewter mug inscribed
with his name

that proves it was
Oxford. I remember
a tall man

“well-spoken”, who
came only at Christmas
and gave me

always a half
crown. Catholic, a
sinner perhaps –

everything he’d
ever owned lost or
spent – he was found

dead in his bed in
a rooming house in
Mount Eden

arms crossed
over his chest in
an act of contrition.

I tell her I think
he’s rowing still
on the black river.


C K Stead

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