Poems by John Adams

Emma Smith, "Blue Tree Pair" (2009).
Emma Smith, "Blue Tree Pair" (2009).

Fishing, off Kawau

            turns and spits: which part of no don’t you understand?

N O is two islands, lumps of difference in a flat film
like skin near some place I’m taken to
fish, one of them, I’m not sure which, a sanctuary,
landing not permitted. Someone must have landed
once, there was a jetty. Whenever low tide curls
back, jagged rotting piles raise a silent jeer
as you float by. One snot-green molar sports
a gulping shag; wet globlets flick; its neck
snakes. There must be fish
here somewhere

The nearer part of N O is poorly charted,
presence of rocks noted but locations
uncertain. Not to mention
the rip.

The middle of a poem is as likely a place to find fish as anywhere else in my experience. Down here they dream past in schooling streams, eager for any morsel I care to place before them. Yes, these are my fish; they will know me well; dappled silver to scale; mouthing uncanny words ending shortly in O as I jerk awake.

Now my slender thread
            through the disappearance,
                  with little hope

Did you hear the snicker/ of that piwakawaka?/
In which fold/ is the artist squeezed?

This is a lonely realm, a scary place for non-Maori
poets who’ve not wed with the land or made cousins
of forests or fucked up a kinship
with the rivers. We, too, fear there may be taniwha
at every bend of these shaky isles; it feels a long way from
safety — we so small; the landscapes so
expensive, big with uncanny sky and the squawk of some
terrified bastard out of sight, straining for a foothold. 

 At Adam’s anxious entree, same same: same stuttering litany
of names, the tic of homage to geology,
geography, flora and fantail, faint trace of our thin poetic
pencil running ahead of the eraser, touching the ground for
autistic affirmation, shitting adjectives like sheep
backing from a noun’s bark: on any approach, bound to be uphill.

Out the window there
was a round goldfish
pond with netting to
keep the birds out and
an aviary to keep their birds in.

Please hug Nadia in
heaven for all of us


in lieu of flowers please

Thank you for all the
driving, discussions and
wonderful roast dinners.
Nothing was ever too

after a short period of
worsening health

surrounded by his family


Dearly loved wife for
almost sixty years

followed by interment at
Kaipara Flats

Words cannot

You are a precious

With deep affection, Gary
Pat and the late Vicki

A warm and caring Man
who did what others only
dear to dream of and
swept us along with him

thanks to staff

The world lost one special

Viewing from 1pm

Bill requested no funeral.

Words cannot

dearly loved wife 

Until we meet again you
are safely in our hearts
and we know you will be
watching over us

awesome uncle to his

Gone too soon

after a brief illness

always in my heart

Gone too soon

Words cannot

(both deceased)

in his 74th year 

sadly missed and fondly

Darling I love you

            cannot express

Very dearly loved mother
and loved sister


A bead of moisture swells
at the end of his nose.
Shiny, his old skin is
almost transparent; red
vein-lines lace his cheeks.
Thick and white his hair
which he brushes,
according to his morning
regimen, standing on the
front porch, overlooking
the road where he can see
me pedalling to school.
The bead splashes onto
the toe of one of his well-
worn well-polished black
boots. He adjusts his
pince-nez, carefully
holding the outer edge of
each frame between a
thumb and index finger.

Family notices

Aged 63 years.

after a brave battle

a private cremation

2 August

Rest with the angels,



“The snicker of the piwakawaka” was first published in Brief #42 (2011).