You look over several hundred heads, down,
writing in the silence of the examination room. You 
miss the girl in the corner because she is camouflaged 
in the backdrop of the dark wall—and you wonder
what does it matter that you missed one?
             In another room, one beyond the school gate
she later stands centre, and her black hair shines
with sun coming through the kitchen window
as she butters soft white bread, layers strawberry jam,
and cuts it into small triangles that she passes 
to her baby brother, pulling himself up on his rolling feet
to reach her hand. His mouth is open. There are no words.
             Her laptop is open
on the counter, bringing into that late afternoon
an aerial view; that expansive blue of Pacific Ocean
taken from an Orion flying over rough seas; tracking territory 
four times the size of the moon, and searching 
for two Tuvaluan fishermen, now missing for a week; 
there are no words.


                                        for Lydia


They were floral sheets, with small pink and lemon buds;
the lip-glossed colour of the sky as the sun turns in
They were the ones she liked best—
old, yet still with a skin-thin coat of winter warmth,

that I put on especially for her week home from Dunedin,
where she slept late, but not so much as to hide. Where
we ate and talked and touched each other, thinking 
(not saying), as mothers and daughters do
            you are so young—you are growing old

There we were, bud and weathered leaf; soft 
downy feathered feel, against callused hand 
and wrinkled eye

Here I am, back from the airport
hanging floral sheets in a spring afternoon
my eye, following the high stretch of arm to peg, and clip—
high rises to a blue sky. And I am stopped, in one moment stilled,
filled by a white winged bird I take at first for a gull, lulling 
languid in bubbled bliss, a heaven-held updraft. Then I see 
it is a jet, high enough to be stationary, or so it seems

It flies south across the horizon that is really a universe
           of circular motions, all in bud
in which she and I are neither beginning nor end, 
but the wings of one bird soaring in a clear sky. 


Jessica Le Bas has published two collections of poetry: incognito and Walking to Africa (AUP, 2007/2009). She won the 2019 Sarah Broom Prize for Poetry. Her 2010 novel for children, Staying Home, is to be released by Penguin Random House as Locked Down in February 2021.