The Gardens of Adonis

If Venus, laying the body of her lover 
on a bed of lettuce (in the arbour, yes, Cupid 
there too), had any idea of the import of the thing – 
that later, in the sultry Dogdays, 
in order to honour the adolescent god, 
women of Phoenicia would sow seeds of lettuce 
into sherds, baskets, little cups, 
the bottoms of earthenware pots 
that with their false flourish in June sun, 
their quick withering (them having no roots) 
and being thrown into seas, into fountains, 
she was forever robbing Love of its consort 
Lasting – then maybe she’d have lain him on 
laurel instead, making of myth a different thing. 
But both were always up against Death, remember, 
from the very start – his boar, her rival in the nether 
grove, by the river, the way it held him down 
the length of its nine cool loops. 

Carrier Wave

The more elusive the truth, the more carefully it must be carried. (Anne Michaels) 
In the photos she is dancing on the wide pink 
steps of a French cathedral under sun, black elms. 
She is scanning the film on her dad’s Apple Mac. 
He is standing on one side, you’re leaning on 
the other. Beyond, through his open window’s 
the valley you woke to year after year, before green 
became variegated, was one plain thrill. 
She un-slings her arms, says family hug meaning as 
in the albums (sand, lake, tent – the way things once held). 
Her arms inveigle the two of you to her. 
Her arms are the frequency current flies through. 

Lines of Succession

History, the way it will saunter in 
through the body’s unwary door 
while bathing say, vague perhaps with absence, 
or pondering consciousness – that strange transparency 
Spinoza tells us veneers the world – 
when you catch yourself holding your hand to your chin 
the middle finger lifting so the nail taps the eye tooth, 
and wham, you’re back in your father’s house – 


It’s summer, there’s a river and a jacaranda tree. 
He is sitting in front of the black balustrade 
legs crossed, lean in his woven chair, 
eyes horizon-high (remember though, they always saw 
the traffic beneath the roses). 
He is bright with enterprise, devising strategy – 
how best build a jetty to accommodate tide, 
how season a timbered hull? 
His thumb and fourth finger support the jaw 
and the sawn-off tip of his index 
finger is held to his cheek-bone inches from the eye – 
but it’s his mouth! It is parted just enough 
so the middle finger flutters between his front teeth, 
the nail tapping (you know exactly) 
the pad rebounding, and after a while 
the soft, ruminative bite. 


Heralded by gesture – your father’s, yours, 
(his dear presence) – you begin to consider 
‘it’s bred in the bone’, 
the deep intelligence of the body. 
Surprise returns you to that most-forgotten land – 
its ruined mountains – though small thoughts intrude too 
(the bath’s grown cold, there are essays to assess, 
photographs to post to a daughter in the north 
of women with marled skin, statues of Eurydice, 
Hera’s marmoreal arms). 


But the word inhere keeps insisting on itself. 
Like breath from a beloved’s lips, its zither passes over you 
so you rise from the bath, draw a towel to the rib- 
and-tingle of your frame and head for the computer 
leaving drips, webbed footprints (gills? hooves?) 
along the glimmering hall. Ah, History, your worn 
thumb, still strumming away? Still printing? We are 
where the hammer falls (more or less). Room though, 
for manoeuvre. 


Jo Thorpe is a Wellington poet, dance writer and lecturer in Dance History at the New Zealand School of Dance. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University in 2001 and her first book of poetry Len & other poems was published by Steele Roberts in 2003.