Poems by Richard Reeve

Emma Smith, "The Swamp" (2008).
Emma Smith, "The Swamp" (2008).


I pick up poems. The hose is a poem. House, which cannot
be picked up, is not therefore not a poem. I mean

in the garden, putting aside for a moment the family
of damages, to redress the smell of the sea, carrying through
a parachute of spinach,
                                     assigning the fallen parsnip
with a redolence of foregone conclusions, the cycle of silverbeet
being a cycle of slime, whether or not there will be words
at the end of each to assess what beginning reckoned
its beginning in disintegration. Nothing words. I hear

in the surf, raging off the point in the onshore wind

that has been blowing forever since one, since lunch.
Hear that it will not be blowing, that it is not now,

that sometime there will be nothing more to pick up.
Grass, earth, spade. Cat greeting. Pick up the poem.

Meeting in a Field

After consent had been given, it was time to bid.
The land lay mute, a prize stretched rare for the fingernail.
But always too there might have been resistance,
remoteness, in the silence it maintained.

Unkillable parasites, joined over the yield,
shook and stammered, stamped and grumbled,
dressed in a sweat of crushed flowers.
It was as though they knew what they were doing, impassive

though the wind did its best to talk them out of it,
and the dirt prodded with their clenched toes
clung to a coarse shrub they dug out
with their spades. An intention to improve

haunted that stony plain; synaptic shadows
flickered in the nerves like dark lightning.
And the land did nothing, and the sun ran down
all redemption, all hope in revenge or relief.


The poet has lost his voice;
has lost it out of choice.
Wind, gavel and the snow,
just his voice had to go.
So, clattering about
on the town with a trout,
poet, already hoarse,
abandoned the course;
lost sight of old verses.

Became some other man
mumbling in the whorl
of professions, cities,
neglecting his curses
for fiduciary duties.
The thunder he might hurl
mellowed into a rusk.
Tired health with his girl,
the cellphone at dusk.

King Death will restore it.
Poet worrying the dark
for the old curses, words,
cannot now ignore it.
First faultingly, then stark,
a night-cry of birds,
voice repossesses him
at King Death’s whim.

“Uptake” was first published in Brief 40 (2010); “Meeting in a Field” in Poetry New Zealand 41 (2010).