> Skip to content

Book clubs  •  12 June 2018


Short story club – 9 August 2018

Read the poems being discussed on Jesse Mulligan’s show on Radio New Zealand on 9 August 2018

Three Poems

by Owen Marshall


Funeral in the Rain

So it is impossible to resist the screenwriters’

ubiquitous cliché, better to place an arm about

its shoulder and guide the scene through the oh

so familiar props. Black-clad mourners beneath

the weeping umbrellas, darkly sleek limousines

slowing among the trees and graves. Harsh

crow chorus that drowns out the ashes-to-ashes

priestly monologue, and we note the widow’s

shapely ankles, a sister’s lace handkerchief

stern, constrained colleagues with collars up

blue wild-flowers clasped by a solemn child.


Then, at some remove, on misted, higher ground

with tombstones, the solitary woman, austerely

beautiful despite her grief, bowed as a question

mark. Mistress, lover, long lost or repudiated

daughter, even avenger perhaps, who turns before

the service ends, and takes all eyes with her as

she walks through the rain and the crows’ mockery

to the stone gates, and then farther in to the plot.




Thistledown Farewell

Rome’s Imperial Age was the final exam

then I went to Cheviot to spend a summer

working for a trucking firm. Mainly it was

carting hay, and over weeks my townie hands

hardened beneath the gloves, the accustomed

focus of my eyes lengthened to the hills again.


On the day I finished there was a flight of thistle

down as we sprawled beneath some cockie’s

poplars. Pale, silent, drifting, insubstantial

multitudes as a ceaseless shoal of baby jellyfish

against the blue sea sky, or the lightest, trembling

foam baulked along a hedge. Even the boss lifted

a brown arm to snatch. ‘Bloody thistles,’ he said.

‘It’s always the useless things that spread the best.’




Back to the Wekaweka

In old age Dad took us back to the Wekaweka

to find the whare site of childhood on that

failed farm. Just split timber, calico windows

and camp oven, he told us. Nothing remained


except the creek which gave him his bearings

and he ranged through the wet undergrowth until

he found the moss-encumbered rock he’d drilled

into as a boy. How urgent he was to uncover


the evidence of seventy years before, putting

his little finger in the holes as if he were

the doubting Thomas of whom he often preached.

Pongas floated in the shadows, wet leaf mould


sponged beneath our feet. A rain mist draped

about the shoulders of the hills on which the

kauri massed. It was a home-coming place in

which my father greeted himself, wearing his


self-referential half smile: an old man circled

back to capture boyhood’s elusive image. On that

steep farm, reverted now to nature, he had lain

nightly to dream a future and listen to kiwis


and moreporks talk through the walls to him.

Maybe he hears them now again in that endless

strangely forested darkness at life’s end

lying calm in the knowledge of our love.


© Owen Marshall, from View from the South, published August 2018

View from the South Owen Marshall

'His poetry is bright, confident and compelling. ' - Otago Daily Times

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Wild cattle: Wekaweka

A poem from View from the South.

Book clubs
Hush Little Baby book club kit

Get your book club talking with these discussion questions on R. H. Herron's book Hush Little Baby.

Book clubs
Return to Harikoa Bay Bookclub Notes

Find discussion questions to get you thinking about Owen Marshall's book Return to Harikoa Bay in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Winter Time book club notes

Laurence Fearnley shares notes and discussion questions on her new book Winter Time in this book club guide.

Book clubs
Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone book club notes

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a fiendishly clever mystery that will keep your book club guessing and introduces a family of characters brilliant for discussion.

Book clubs
The Last Station book club notes

An unputdownable Australian novel to read with your book club.

Book clubs
The Herd book club notes

A standout book club novel. Unputdownable and thought-provoking.

Book clubs
The Frog Prince book club conversation starters

James Norcliffe shares discussion points and questions for his new book The Frog Prince in this book club guide.

Book clubs
The Spy's Wife book club notes

Much loved author Fiona McIntosh is back with an historical adventure to enjoy with your book club.

Book clubs
The Paper Palace book club notes

A magnificent literary pick for book club.

Book clubs
A Slow Fire Burning book club notes

An exciting new thriller from the author of The Girl on the Train to discuss with your book club.

Book clubs
Mirror Man book club notes

Ponder whether one life is worth more than another with Fiona McIntosh's latest thriller.

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes