You live in a Motown snowglobe 
a January whiteout 
a ballet of bobbing traffic lights 
I have an unnatural summer birthday 
on an expanse of volcanic sand 
beside the Tasman Sea 
You search out sharper details 
he’s afraid of daddy long legs 
and he smells like melted ice 
I have new words that don’t reach you 
lollies and gumboots and one for the way 
the sun leaps up all at once, sheepish 
You will be married on an island 
of forgotten fish bowls 
with wild deer for witnesses 
I would wait in the woods in my red sea rig 
but red ribboned trees only worry about 
the tomorrow that cuts us off 
When you hear my voice but can’t taste my breath 
        it’s not ‘death do us part’ 
        it’s just these telephones 

Canterbury Plains

The wheat’s a freeze frame of beige rain 
Quivering above the drive, improbably vertical 
Terrestrial tassels strung up by an invisible thread 
Stretched a hundred million miles to the hydrogen 
Gaslamp drifting overhead behind a slow loping 
Pilgrimage of chastely white clouds 
I swagger below, the American farmboy I never was 
In a chest level canopy of Queen Anne’s lace 
Or Queen Anne’s snowflakes, perhaps 
Something fractal, like the ferns further upcountry 
Curled up green comb-racks for comb-racks 
For combs 
The highland cattle in shaggy summer misery 
Frame me in their trapezoidal horns, a trespasser 
Launching into friendly kiwi airspace a foreign missile: 
A red, white, and scuffed, cork and leather piece of home 
A Rawlings baseball, falling in tight geometry to 
The spanksound pocket of my glove 
The donkeys notice me, and look up quizzically 
Like grey uniformed generals awaiting bad news 
Ferdinand and Francesca leave their rusty tent 
Their hairy, corrugated scratching post and 
Flick forward their ears, thick and steady as my forearm 
And hot under my fingernails 
Southpaw sandwiched in cowhide, I walk back 
Clapping the ball with its smudges of donkey dust 
Pitching it high in a sky where it doesn’t belong 
Though it looks just the same, a fat little bird 
Darting for a darker blue, a grander view 
Its underbelly in shadow 


Holly Painter recently completed her MFA in creative writing at Canterbury. She has lived in DetroitLos AngelesAuckland and Dunedin, and now wanders between them at irregular intervals. As a result, Holly is always at home and also not at home. There’s something of that in her poems here.