Saturday, September 20, 2014

NEW ZEALAND ELECTION DAY POEM: "Looking Backwards" by Kendrick Smithyman


The first Labour Government was in office.
A fait accompli, without consulting us
Mother went into time payment, again we had
a radio. We were in touch,
                                         broadcasts from the House,
Eb and Zeb, Fred and Maggie, Father's good ear pressed
to the Speaker (this was better than Hansard)
and Gordon Hutter. Sense of purpose -
everything being built all over,
they hadn't yet started quite to fall apart?
On the horizon a shimmering like a pearl.

Au fond du temple saint:
soon I was getting into opera, would rather
had been girls but girls were difficult.
Even so after Evensong I ratted on Maury,
left him with both choirgirls on his hands,
scuttling home to hear the latest tenor,
Jussi Björling.
                      Mother closed her eyes, Father leaned
against E lucevan le stelle, to La donna è mobile.
How right. "As good as Caruso, or better,
when I heard him in Philadelphia."
"Like Melba," Mum declared, "you don't know
whether to laugh or cry." We'd missed
Uncle Scrim.

                         Along skies westward stars were
shining, a flickering like not so distant gunfire.


     -- Kendrick Smithyman


Photo Credit: www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz

For more on this often underrated New Zealand poet, see:



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