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Poems by the selectors for SOUTH 59

The poems for SOUTH are selected anonymously by guest selectors. We thank Denise Bennett and Pauline Hawkesworth who selected the poems for this issue.

HMS NEW ZEALAND

I tell my children you are here
because

in 1913 a Maori chief
gave the captain of HMS New Zealand
a piupiu, a skirt made from flax.

A ceremonial gift
with the prophecy that if worn
or kept close by in conflict

it would protect the ship
and crew – and his words were
remembered at the battles

of Dogger Bank, Heligoland Bight
and Jutland. It was the luckiest
ship they said. No loss of life

and because of this
a young bandsman, a flautist
called Francis survived

who had a son who had
a daughter who now stands
before the exhibition case

looking at the skirt displayed,
thinking of the tribal hands
that wove the leaves

which saved the sailors,
and how they’d grown the crop
from the seed of the flax.

© Denise Bennett

MEETING PLACE

You have left the train too early
I call out ‘It’s the wrong stop.’
See your jacket flapping, arms raised
as if to say goodbye.

Couldn’t you see through the open window
that this place is not where we spoke about?

Your luggage sits under my feet,
an old-fashioned square-edged suitcase,
‘just one’ you said, ‘that’s enough.’

We were sitting chatting of ordinary things,
when you jumped up and hurried off, perhaps
you thought this quiet station was your Adlestrop.

All I see now is a match-stick man, and I’m
shouting at it ‘catch the next train, I’ll wait
at the next stop.’

Now, fed up with waiting
I leave our luggage in ‘lost property’
and hack-back, dangerously,
along the railway track.

Can almost hear blackbirds pecking at the sun.
Around the next corner I should see the station
a quiet place, and you sitting on a bench
admiring willow-herb and rosebay.

And inside my sprawling brain
I know this too is my Adlestrop.


from Parents, Enitharmon

© Pauline Hawkesworth

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