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This poem is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

Three Poems C.K. Stead


There are dreamscapes
                               and realscapes.

                           This one I suspect
                                               is real
though the sun is walking on water
and the sea out at the yellow buoy
                                            is silk.

                An orange container-ship
is rounding North Head.
                           Green Rangitoto
pictures itself
and is not displeased.
                        Moehau, deep blue
insists on distance.

                              Swimming back
on my back
                               I become again
the connoisseur of clouds -
feathers and fleeces.

                            A gull drifts over
                                               a tern
                                     a gull again
white on
on blue.

                               A low-altitude
                                   exocet shag
                            (late for lunch?)
hurtles across.

                This is the life that goes
                                  godlessly on
a poem without words
a gift without conditions
                                        a present
without a past.



                   that's the name of the ferry
                     but the process has begun
                   before you reach the wharf.

                                          that's Death
                                 giving itself airs -
a lovely name
a kindly aspect.

                                        Or might it be

after one who died of love
                              for his own fine face

for his own
sad story?

So you arrive in the dream
with a handwritten pile
                     from which the wind tears
                                 page and page and
pages -

                            so much remembered
                                                 so finely

It's the worm-eaten sheets
                             torn, stained, blotted
                                         the ferryman
likes best.

'Have a seat there.
Make yourself comfy.'

                        I hear him on the wharf
                                  the pirate sea-dog
John Silver
he his own parrot
                                    'Missing a word
                                                'a world
                                    'missing a word

'Elysium' -
have you been there?

        You pass through the needle's eye
                              cross the black river
in silence
(and I think in pain)
                                       to a sunlit field
                                               of yellow
nodding heads.




all is forgiven.

Today would be my mother's
one hundredth birthday.
                                          She's there
                                        the ferryman
                                           assures me.

                                          He tells me
she was reluctant to go
but silent -
                               stood in the prow
                                              no tears
and never looked back.

The Rower

Did grandfather Stead
(she wants to know)
row for Oxford

or Cambridge - or
(as sometimes asserted)
for one then

the other? These
claims for him I long
ago dismissed

but she's heard there's
a pewter mug inscribed
with his name

that proves it was
Oxford. I remember
a tall man

'well-spoken', who
came only at Christmas
and gave me

always a half
crown. Catholic, a
sinner perhaps -

everything he'd
ever owned lost or
spent - he was found

dead in his bed in
a rooming house in
Mount Eden

arms crossed
over his chest in
an act of contrition.

I tell her I think
he's rowing still
on the black river.

This poem is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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