the second poet (reading)



tell me again about the body of your sister
(it was your sister?) budding, and how
you were overawed, tell me again
and tell me how you hardened at the sight
and the fragile flowering scent, oh you were overawed
tell me again – the flower, the bird, your muse 
the damaged word losing current and swooping
or grounded now and trembling her eyes deep frightened
gentle deep frightened gentle deep tell me how
she took your breath away, you and the men propped up
against the scrim-lined walls of the passage and wheezing
while she continued to move like molasses in the light.
tell me how much she was poetry,
a gazelle, slight, dark-haired and possibly 
french, a wren’s egg breathtakingly 
cracked and how for years you wondered whether
it was you that did it, and whether you could again,
arriving eventually at the conclusion 
that no one ever denies epiphanies when they come.



she controls her cutlery, so as not to disturb
but sun streams from the window and through 
the slip of bacon on her fork so that it glows,
sepia-stained, almost religiously rindless,
crispy. she thinks the man at the next table 
may have noticed and she wants to tell him that
the egg was nothing to write home about – 
but the second poet has begun
offering to the room delicate slices of herself
lifted high on a quivering voice
while the sun slides behind to illumine
those blood roses, the poet’s ears.
the man at the next table is about to order.
she drops the fork
to make a window of her second thought – 
that perhaps even the bacon
was just a touch overdone.


Jen Crawford lives in Auckland. Her collection Admissions was published in 2000 by Five Islands Press and was shortlisted for the Anne Elder and Dame Mary Gilmore awards. She moderates the poetry discussion list Poneme.