> 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

Feature Title

View from the South
'His poetry is bright, confident and compelling. ' - Otago Daily Times
Read more

More features

See all
Article
Wild cattle: Wekaweka

A poem from View from the South.

Book clubs
The Cryptic Clue book club questions

The second book in The Tea Ladies series is a fun mystery to read with your book club.

Book clubs
What I Would Do to You book club questions

A stunning, thought-provoking debut to read with your book club.

Book clubs
A Gentleman in Moscow book club questions

A letter from the author and book club questions for one of Amor Towles' most popular books.

Book clubs
The Other Bridget book club questions

A feelgood romantic comedy by Australia's bestselling romance writer.

Book clubs
The Space Between - Book club notes

Delve deeper into this story of love, class and belonging, set at the brink of the New Zealand Wars. A great bookclub pick!

Book clubs
The Bee Sting book club questions

A thought-provoking book about family and fortune to read with your book club.

Book clubs
Foul Play book club questions

A heart-stopping Jack Hawksworth novel to read with your book club.

Book clubs
The Sugar Palace book club questions

A heart-stopping romantic adventure to read with your book club.

Book clubs
Build The Life You Want Book Club Guide

Build the Life You Want introduces you to the cutting-edge science that can change your life, in understandable terms and with actionable strategies. Along the way, Arthur and Oprah share hard-earned wisdom from their own lives and careers.

Book clubs
The Waters Book Club Notes

Unravel Carl Nixon's brilliant story of a fractured family told over 40 years with these book club questions

Book clubs
Hamlet is Not OK classroom discussion points

Some great points to discuss with your classroom or book club, from this quirky new take on Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Looking for more book club notes?

See all book club notes