Fourteen Short Poems

On Fitzherbert Bridge


I can smell silage

and there is a pukeko

brilliant on the bank below.

How noisy the guardrail is

in this wind—it chatters

like a cacophony of tent pegs.

The silk scarf

slides off my head

into my pocket.

she leaves the bookshop

he smiles after her

opens a book

Four White Coffee Cups and Saucers


The chink of the cups in their saucers woke me up

although of course I was really asleep. The tall man

preoccupied with crockery said—I’m setting out the

coffee cups. One cup for each of your four husbands.

How very odd. Who on earth dreams these things up?

Garden Path 

The garden gnome is not weeping

after all, head in a corner, hands up

to his painted face, his pointy beard.

He is playing hide and seek, counting

up to one hundred, or maybe more.



That face already like his father.

In the deep bliss of the uterus.

Asleep in a sleep unlike any other.

Outside the Library


She was screaming into her phone

wrangling a toddler and a baby.

The toddler kicked his ball right

to my feet so she stooped for it.

She was blind with rage and as

she stood she yelled into my face

They’re your children too!

And off she went in a maelstrom of

phone, ball, toddler, baby, stroller.



Rongotai Airport


A plane flies down behind the hill.

Another plane rises from behind the hill.

What they are doing behind the hill must be presumed.

They disappear, they appear.

The chairs gather

to stare

at my volatility.


In the Polio Ward


A child in splendid isolation

sitting on her white bed

saw the day moving slowly

and the night come down

she learned to love

doing nothing

and how to be alone.



She walked her Long-Nosed Vacuum Cleaner

over the zebra crossing in a midnight street

from one office block to another office block.

The mare and foal

are on a string

until the string snaps.

Plaza Mall



strolling in the Mall

is dressed by the Mall.






Nearly everything that was written for ten years

stared at that wall. It was unforgiving red brick.

But it became more subtle and various in time.

Two armlengths away, thirty feet up in the air.

A long square of texture and the light creeping

from day to night and then back to day again.

A quarrel downstairs

                                shrill voices

                                                   intimate as a village.

A glass bottle smashing in the lightwell

                                                          a slippery hand

groping on the windowledge.

His music next door

                              an afternoon of the same album

over and over and over.                                          


                                     As the wall stared.

Jennifer Compton

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