Best New Zealand Poems 2002
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The Child in the Gardens: Winter

How sudden, this entering the fallen
gardens for the first time, to feel the blisters
of the world’s father, as his own hand
does. It is everything dying at once,
the slimed pond and the riffling of leaves,
shoes drenched across sapless stalks.
It is what you will read a thousand times.
You will come to think, who has not stood
there, holding that large hand, not said
Can’t we go back – I don’t like this place.
Your voice sounds like someone else’s. You
rub a sleeve against your cheek, you want
him to laugh, to say, ‘The early stars can’t hurt
us, they are further than trains we hear
on the clearest of nights.’ We are in a story
called Father, We Must Get Out.
Leaves scritch at the red walls,
a stone lady lies near the pond, eating
dirty grass. It is too sudden, this
walking into time for its first lesson,
its brown wind, its scummed nasty
paths. You know how lovely yellow
is your favourite colour, the kitchen at home.
You touch the big gates as you leave,
the trees stand on their bones, the shoulders
on the vandaled statue are huge cold
eggs. Nothing there wants to move.
You touch the gates and tell them, We
are not coming back to this place. Are we, Dad?


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