Two security guards talking about Jupiter

Four little canvas bags of takings, one float, one 
cash box and two guards to open the security room 
where the squat safe is waiting. End of day ritual 
but tonight they are talking of Jupiter 
in men’s fashion. Did you see that 
TV programme? About what the world 
will be like when it dries out? A prune 
sinking in on itself, a dust bowl falling 
inwards like the orchestrated blowing up 
of a building that comes down on the 
spot ordained. Saturn, on the contrary, 
is a crystal planet. How strange, fitting 
the cash bags in, pushing the cashbox back 
turning the handle so the teeth of the door mesh 
and the maker’s gold seal glows in the light 
then finally the long thin key that someone 
locked in the room might turn to open 
to take out the bags and play with the money 
but be unable to escape because the door 
is deadbolted. Walking away, thinking 
how like a little safe this planet is 
locked tight, we trust, for the night 
its systems meshed. Earth preserved in its 
abundant waters, Jupiter in its dark moonlets.

Buying a Bed

Together they flung themselves back 
on the hillocky satin mattress 
which barely yielded. Four feet 
hung over the base, their heads 
a foot from the headboard where pillows 
would raise them. Eyes on the ceiling 
first, then one another. What support, 
they thought, in a bed bought by a mother 
who is forcing a credit card on the salesman 
and arranging delivery for this afternoon. 
It’s recommended by the College of Chiropractors 
the salesman was saying when the transaction 
was complete and they were being bowed out – 
the young lovers holding hands, the mother 
on her way back to her hotel bed – vast 
and cool and hard, an Arctic of tight sheets – 
following as the giver of gifts must 
down the aisle of beds – theirs the best 
now there are no bodies lying across it 
now their bodies have left no imprints. 


The ear of my grandson, lying on his side 
asleep in a bed with a fake fur cover 
so soft the ear, so tender, so thoughtfully 
hearing the soft music from the radio 
which is beginning an indoctrination. 
Sleep to music, sleep to rain, sweet ear. 
My mother’s ear, when she died and after 
laid out in the funeral parlour, so fine 
so stiff, like a communion wafer 
so starched, a worn sheet in the frost 
could not compare to it, being too thick. 
What sounds had flowed through it, sweet ear. 


Elizabeth Smither has just completed a new collection of poems, The year of adverbs, which will be published by Auckland University Press in 2007. Her latest publication is a novel, Different kinds of pleasure (Penguin, 2006).