new zealand electronic poetry centre

Dinah Hawken

online works




I had just chosen this theme
when the global situation
suddenly deteriorated. The whole gang
started moving in — the Cubans,
the Syrians, the terrorists,
the big boys, of course, toying
with their accumulated ammunition.
I backed down into a thin,
very beautiful woman, willing
to offer anything they wanted
— a miniature daffodil, some sort
of love, to accommodate the blunt end
of their strategies, plans, a glove —

when a quiet and terrifying poet,
Adrienne Rich, stepped in.
She stood there with an M16
at her back. I lay
dreadfully apart on the carpet.
Then her voice began unfolding
like layered rock in the afternoon sun,
precision glancing off, in striking bands,
and it was clear
that she offered me a future
— a precarious one, with a constantly
human body and two huge wings.
And I remembered
what they planned to hack from our dark
gently breathing lands.


So I take hold of this poem
which has come from the front.
From the newspaper. From a narrow crack
in a stack of exploded concrete.
From the hand of a paratrooper, reaching out
through the crack to a friend, in Lebanon.
From the voice of a marine, pleading
under collapsed stories of man-made rock,
‘Don’t leave me here.’ And what I ask
from far below my own life,
as the rescue work goes on, and what
we must know in this time of crisis, yes,
and grief, hunching towards the best,
most ambitious dead end of all, is where
are the women, where exactly are we?


We have been watching here
for years, and we know, that power
split from the source of its own
body and breath is of a mind
to divide everything else on earth, even
the simplest thing, for a brief
desperate show of brilliance; and that we,
crouched, still, in the hills
of our bodies, are most needed
when we are most
revolted. And we don’t know,
living as we do in the decadence
of division, whether we can stand
binding love into this accuracy, and
if we do, whether we can hold it there.


From It has no sound and is blue (VUP, 1987)

Dinah Hawken

Last updated 13 December, 2004