Best New Zealand Poems 2001


Ian Wedde


To Death

Death takes them all, that’s why
We never see it. Death’s never in
The picture. But everything we see, we see
Because death has. Death took the pictures.
Death looked at Chloe whom the poet

Begged not to run to her mother. Chloe
Ran into the oblivious arms of death.
Quintilius lies in the sleep that goes on
Without ever ending, and the music has faded away
That could have restored blood to the veins of the shade

Death saw. Lydia no longer
Wakes up to hear the sound of gravel thrown
Against her shuttered windows in the night.
Death pictured what lay behind the shutters
And Lydia grew old on the journey between

Her chamber and the dark street where death waited.
O passerby, do not refuse a few
Handfuls of sand to cover up the corpse
Of Archytas. It may be you who needs these rites
Some day, when death has viewed you as he did Archytas,

Who counted all the uncountable grains of sand
On the lonely beach. Death pictured my mother
And my father on the Picton foreshore, cheek by cheek
Under Gemini, twin sons unborn, tinkle
Of jazz from the ferryboat. And death looked at their sons.


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