After her funeral


We’ve foxes here, my uncle remarks, 
pointing out the roadkill, an orange blur 
on the road from Bungendore. 
I’ve forgotten—do you have foxes 
in New Zealand? No, I say. 
We have possums, rabbits, rats, stoats.
Mink too, though? he asks. I thought I heard 
of mink, living in your hills? Eventually,
we arrive at the National Arboretum. 
The pamphlet with site map informs us 
there are over forty-four thousand trees 
selected from over one hundred countries 
thriving here. The pine forest section transports me 
to 70s summer holidays crammed
on the back seat of the Vauxhall Cresta, 
long days of driving seemingly never-ending, dark-grey highways 
traversing fairy-tale landscapes of tight-packed pines. 
Someone would always make a face and call them ugly, 
pointing them out as invaders. I’d imagine 
their trespasser roots, spread wide, 
probing deep into the hard-packed earth
in search of moisture and nutrients 
since the day they were spiky seedlings, 
roughly heeled-in by a sweating forester. 
As each roadside plantation ultimately gave way 
to paddocks, I’d twist in my seat to look back 
at that characteristic wide grin, the gap-teeth 
of their narrow, neatly trimmed trunks
and see myself as a pine tree.


Claire Orchard’s poetry has appeared in Landfall, Sport, Sweet Mammalian, Verge, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Atlanta Review and Best New Zealand Poems. Her first collection of poetry, Cold Water Cure, was published by Victoria University Press in 2016.