or a grape
of its vine
trails of stars
your sleeping face
Letter to Louise Lawrence
one of those letters that begins
‘I have been riding horseback
all day’ or ‘it’s great
to be back’ or ‘Hello, sweetheart
I am trying to write this
a lot of crazy things
in my life but have never
attempted this before.’
But your book kept
interrupting me – and set me
we send through the post:
a sense of family, or where we are
precisely in this universe of
wrong addresses and insufficient
is always sending unwrapped
objects through the mail:
last week a stamped and addressed
tennis shoe, this week
a packet of seeds. Chris Cochran
forty cent stamp and
the address written carefully
upon it. Such miracles of
the daily post – the infamous live eel
inserted in the mail box at Opoutere.
Parcels and their Contents. Last year
prior to our return from France
I mailed 45 kg of books home
filling our three year old’s puschchair
with bundles wrapped
to La Poste. Along the way
I was met with suspicious glances
from neighbours who
must have thought – with
my pouchette stacked child-high –
three year old back to New Zealand.
On much earlier afternoons
my brother and I would
march in single file
out the kindergarten gate with
The glare from the flapping white sheets
attached to the children in front
of us: that was how letters
entered our lives, and stayed.
Have you considered editing
Which brings us to other burning issues
of the day: war, pestilence
‘has Harris watered the willows
& planted my pumpkins & moved
the bees,’ and whether we are losing
of what, in the computer age, has happened
to the word ‘attachment’.
I’m on the side of paper, Louise.
This side. Which means I’m
resolutely with your book
who always wrote in pencil
distrusting the newfangled
the fountain pen. I’m for
the Imperial typewriter
I have any reservations about your book:
maybe D’Arcy Cresswell, who was more
successful as a blackmailer than a poet
is under-represented – as are
blackmailers in general. Yet another
the parking infringement notice
isn’t given the time of day, neither
are the bills that cram
our post box each morning. Rejection
letters. Real estate fliers.
the Penguin Book of Junk Mail.
‘The days run away,’ Louise.
I’ll try to keep up with them
ambling home around Oriental Bay
your book in my backpack
rubbing against my shoulders
as though pinned there.
And I am back again
at the kindergarten gate
one in a long line
a trail of punctuation marks
dissembling up the street.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gregory O’Brien’s recent publications include a book of poems, Afternoon of an evening train and the catalogue to an exhibition currently touring the country, Elizabeth Thomson – My Hi-fi Sci-fi. Forthcoming books include A Nest of Singing Birds – 100 Years of the School Journal and a book-length essay, News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore. The poem ‘Evening, Marlborough’ was commissioned by Summerhouse Winery, Blenheim, and appears on the label of their 2006 Chardonnay. ‘Letter to Louise Lawrence’ was read at the launching of The Penguin Book of New Zealand Letters, ed. Louise Lawrence, at Unity Books in 2003.