Poem – Allen Curnow

A Raised Voice

Let it be Sunday and the alp-high
summer gale gusting to fifty miles.

Windmills groan in disbelief, the giant
in the pulpit enjoys his own credible

scale, stands twelve feet ‘clothed in fine linen’
visibly white from the waist up, all

inferior parts masked, as my father
ascends three steps, is cupped like an egg.

The pulpit floor’s eye-level, I look
up, Gordon Brown looks up, my father

looks down at his notes and begins in the
name of the father and of the son

and of the holy ghost amen, a voice
that says Jess to my mother, heightened

three steps, to which add the sanctuary
rise, the subdued pile of the Axminster

rubber. Panels of a pale-coloured wood
liturgically pointed assemble

to enclose and to elevate the voice
is it kahikatea, so readily

riddled by the worm of the borer
beetle but ideal for butter-boxes

or heart kauri? the rape of the northern
bush left plenty for pulpits and pews.

Gordon Brown, grocery and general store,
before kneeling always pushes one

oily vessel up clear of his head, the
tin lampshade clashes, the pulley squeaks.

I’m looking up into my thought
of my father, my certainty, he’ll

be safe, but what about me? What else?
A voice descends, feet scrape, we all

stand up. The scent my mother wears is
vera violetta. That can’t be it.


Allen Curnow

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