The Shock

The shock will arrive via a phone call from your sister 
in a strange house 
a house where you have never slept 
you’ve just arrived, with a suitcase 
a suitcase full of books. 
There is a phone call. At dinner time. The child must be fed. 
There is an unexpected visitor who has been served 
a glass of wine 
the last 
of the wine. 
The shock arrives shockingly down the wire 
you will always remember 
that pause, before she spoke 
and how the air you breathed 
changed shape. 
The conversation that was afoot 
limps on 
as you come back into the room dragging the shock 
it’s a monstrous frantic putrid snot-green shock 
it’s howling for blood. 
Look. Already it has taken a pit bull munch 
out of your softest parts 
slipped you a dose of don’t-touch-me distance 
just one of the gifts 
that the shock packs in its kit. 
You will stand on the doorstep in the chill night air 
lifting a hand in farewell 
the visitor is backing his vehicle out of the driveway 
and it will be so strange, the strangest thing 
you will be able to see everything at once. 


Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington and now lives in Melbourne. She is a poet and playwright who also writes prose. Her book of poetry, This City, won the Kathleen Grattan Award and was published by Otago University Press in 2011. And in 2013 her poem ‘Now You Shall Know’ won the Newcastle Poetry Prize.

‘The Shock’ is part of a series called Now You Shall Know written in response to her mother’s death in 2011 while Jennifer was touring New Zealand to launch and publicise This City. She received a phone call from her sister informing her the end was near while she was staying with Johanna Aitchison in Palmerston North.