Best New Zealand Poems 2002
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Cutty Sark

In company with Cutty Sark at sea
only once, on Himalaya off Brazil.
They sailed into the doldrums.
Day after day another sail came into sight,
would lose the wind, then idle.
Forty-two ships counted from the masthead.

Sent up with a glass at daybreak
to mark if anything stirred, reported
a clipper coming from the south carrying
canvas, the mate observing from the poop
later was first to say ‘That’s Cutty Sark.’
They watched her through the day.
At last light she was hull down, northing,
had sailed right through the might as well
have been derelict fleet, forty-plus of them,
some getting on for four weeks there.

That’s what poetry may be about, the impossible
part of it which achieves insubstantial
fact, as little material as Sybil Sanderson’s
G in alt or Fonteyn’s unpredicted change
(‘If you didn’t see why I did it when I did
it then it didn’t work’) not to be described;
when seen, if seen, in kind a dumbshow
to strike dumbstruck any who looked out
hearing something beyond likely hearing,
seeing something not likely seen, gone
without leaving words for.


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