How It Strikes a Neighbour

                   (for Steve)


Down here is where the poet lived;
white-roofed now, but blue in her day.

She used to sit on the car pad,
staring across at Somes Island

where her father, Johnny (Johann)
was interned during World War 2 –

an alien ever after,
she always claimed; her hare-lipped smile.

No, you can’t go down. The current
owners tend to be, shall we say,

unfriendly. The sloping garden
is just as she left it: dwarf daffs,

the lemon trees, random pansies.
Stella was what she called herself.

It’s rumoured a leather notebook
of unpublished poems survives.

A niece or a nephew has it
and occasionally puts up

odd lines, phrases, on a website:
“The natural architecture

of trees”, for instance, and “I hold
your body’s soft against the cold”;

“Grey warblers practise their brief turn”
– like that one just now down the street.                                                                                     

“Unheimlich”, the title poem
of her single slim collection

(Longman Paul, 1975)
remains her anthology piece,

mostly for its final couplet:
“Love, so unheimlich in each part,

the true Voynichese of the heart” –
although what that means goodness knows.

That’s all I can tell you, really.
We were neighbours but never, shall

we say, friends; more on g’day terms.
Her body wasn’t found for a week.


Harry Ricketts teaches a creative nonfiction course (CREW 257) at the IIML. He has published around 30 books, including his Selected Poems which appeared from Victoria University Press in July 2021.