The Randell Cottage Writers Trust is marking National Poetry Day (22 August 2014) with our own online poetry festival, a series of poems by Randell Cottage poets (a term encompassing our residents, trustees and committee members).
Wellington-born, Sydney-based poet and playwright Jennifer Compton was the Randell’s writer in residence in the winter of 2008. Here’s what she has to say about the experience: “I was hoping for traditional and well-remembered Wellington storms — I was hoping for tempests — but there was an Indian summer and I was tempted out walking and then when winter did finally come I was snug as a bug in a rug. Six months is long enough to settle to your work — with a bit of down time — and I did. I did settle to my work.”
Not Even of the Sky
The house is a trap with windows, full of the work
that will never be done. The cobwebs belong to you.
The narrow door is hard to find but you stumble on it.
The time capsule in the roof cavity groans with alarm,
the unworn clothes draped on the foot of the iron bed
simply acquiesce. The heater ticks with an ancient cool.
Downhill, downhill, what is it you are looking for?
As the house forgets you, as you forget the house.
Other houses, neat as safety pins, cute as buttons,
as empty as the beloved whose perfection is served
from afar, by drudgery, by dreaming, are above it all.
They are lonely. Sometimes they tremble, obdurately.
You are scanning the pavement for a useful paper clip.
Or something extraordinary. Something that will keep
you safe forever. The executive wing of democracy,
a man on a horse punching the sky, a rooftop crane
for lifting the city into place, a lion, and a unicorn.
The boys in aprons are smoking in the loading dock.
Throngs of young people in black gowns, square caps,
the arcane hoop of rose pink silk hangs down their back,
are talking to each other through their mobile phones
as their parents hammer out snap after snap after snap.
In the city there is LOTTO, there is PROTOPLASM,
there is a face uptilted to the sky, there is a bouquet.
This chapter ends with a golden weed, a dandelion,
the steepest street that ever you saw called Vivian.
Meanwhile SUNDAY HOME DELIVERY at 353.
The red circle (no bottle no glass) Liquor-Free Zone
has driven out the recidivist drunks towards the hills
and here they worship the cask on the picnic table
with huddled ceremonies, with the gift of tongues.
The camera wants them, wants their homelessness,
captures a tree, a gnarled old tree, and the traffic.
And turns her fist to take the Tableau Of The Lost,
to take them home with her in a box, but – Hey! –
their signalman calls out – You can’t take photos here!
The camera stutters – Not even of the sky? – looses
off a shot not of the sky but of earth and leaf litter.
She folds herself away with a sly wheezing echo.
The figures in the landscape are sentient, possess
antennae, and can speak. Do speak. And command
red circle (no camera) – like in the Sistine Chapel.
You can’t find where you used to live, several times
– everything now everything now – then you find
where you used to live – the pavement is whispering
– everything now – the stairs still lead down to the door.
This poem should end with a notorious desk but it ends
with an ironing board crouching alertly at number 14.
Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 2008
First published in Poetry London, 2009.