The Thing

I need to find the thing I am good at. 
I have something wonderful inside, 
waiting to be said. It has not been easy. 
Spanish guitar, cake design, lyrics for lullabies. 
I really shine at nothing. 
It needs to come smoother than this – 
the way water flowing through wood 
would feel, if you put a hand to it. 
I saw the cover of Gillian Welch’s latest album 
in the Sunday paper. Immediately I knew 
this was the kind of beauty I would aim for. 
Something that makes normal people 
feel worse about their lives. 


You used to worry about what to do 
but now you just do it – who cares? 
You don’t have a career 
but you do have a job. 
Are you married? people ask. 
No, you’re not married – 
you’re not really fussed. 
But who will protect you at night? 
even though they know 
they needn’t bother asking – 
there’s something different 
about you 
(where is she from?) 
you might not be packing 
but you know where the guns are. 

The Feathered Hat

I worry myself into a grisly stew 
over a qualification in teaching, 
because my stringing words together 
like a popcorn necklace, doesn’t pay. 
Rory tells me an old Chinese proverb: 
He with the most feathers in his hat 
gets a sore neck 
and I think I must want a hat made 
of feathers – a peacock’s brilliant green 
with their centred orange suns that dance 
as my head moves, like seaweed in a swell, 
if only my neck, wrung like a chicken’s who just 
will not lay, could hold the darn thing up. 

Leaving him free

The man who it was said had nothing to be forgiven for, asked John for forgiveness.
Please, he said, please. John never asked questions around sin, and he walked the
man down the eastern banks into the river, the water cutting around their thighs. John
delivered, and so whatever it had been was gone; washed away from the man to soak
into the soil, leaving him free, and everyone else ready to tell their story about the


First: the sighting. In the old days messengers were sent, bonfires lit, now there are
cell phones. Launch the boats, find the whales and drive them to the shore: the whales
beach themselves. Those which do not are pulled in by their blowholes. The sea will all
turn red. 
The Chairman: I’m sure that no one who kills his own animals for food is unmoved by
what he does. 
The sea will all turn red. The nights will grow longer. The Faroese will dance their slow
steps in a circle, and survive on the meat and blubber they have distributed and stored
in their homes. Frozen or salted, everyone gets a share. There is no land for crops.
The Faroese will dance their slow steps in a circle and survive. 


Louise Wallace‘s debut collection of poetry, Since June, was published by Victoria University Press in December 2009. She is currently at work on a second collection centred around the loss and preservation of memory, with the assistance of a grant from Creative NZ. Leaving him free and Grindadráp are from a longer series prompted by ideas around how to define ourselves, the need to leave a record, and Wikipedia’s proliferation into our ‘everyday’. These two poems were inspired by the pages ‘John the Baptist’ and ‘Whaling in the Faroe Islands,’ selected using Wikipedia’s ‘random article’ function.