new zealand electronic poetry centre

Fiona Farrell

online works


I have come to the land of
a thousand spades. And that’s
only the one-sided spade.

Think another thousand with
two sides where a man might
press down with either foot.

Blunt-cornered or curved,
short-handled or long,
whole dialects of digging.
Men walked the roads here
carrying their chosen spade.
The fields were too small
for ploughs. Just room for
one man and the breadth
of his spade.

I think of my father and his
three spades: the one with the
square handle, smooth from his
hand. The long-handled shovel.
The narrow spade that was the
one preferred to dig the long

And me allowed to follow
in his muddy track, carrying
the bucket and setting each
potato in black Kakanui loam
as he had shown me,

with its green shoot facing the sky.

Near where I have been living at Donoughmore is the Blarney River valley where for over a hundred years the Monard and Coolowen Ironworks produced the thousands of varieties of shovels and spades required by the Irish market. I like tools: when my parents died, I kept my mother’s washboard and the white stick she used to draw out the clothes from the copper. And I kept a little hand hoe my father made from a piece of wood and some bent iron for scuffing up the weeds between the rows of vegetable seedlings.


From The Pop-Up Book of Invasions (AUP, 2007)

Fiona Farrell

Last updated 26 July, 2007