Best New Zealand Poems 2001


Peter Olds


A Bit Late, But Still

I would like to talk with kindly Sister
Gabriel, with nervy Brother Remigius,
about eternity, say. I would listen
more attentively than ever I did
in the room with the high square windows
in Surrey Crescent, or the long prefab
above the gully in Richmond Road.
I would listen, old instructors,
as you began the story I always
longed to hear. I’d watch one of you turn
your plain silver ring as you did
when you told us simpler stories.
When even a child thought, How
handsome she is, how wonderful
if we could see the colour of her hair.
And the other, that considerate man
martyred daily in the fifth form’s
colosseum, how good to see you dab,
again, like Louis Armstrong, your
perfect handkerchief, ease your stiff
collar in the summer heat – to hear
you report, ‘It is even better, boys,
Than any of us imagined.’ The palm
and the crown as certain as the next
bell. To hear you both talking
of that would be something. And something,
I suppose, in its sad, distant way,
to say even this — how good it would be.


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