new zealand electronic poetry centre


Elizabeth Smither

online works


The year of adverbs

Don’t open this impetuously before Christmas
you’ve written in capitals across
the brown cardboard-stiffened wrapper

but two days before, feeling the need of
it turns out – adverbs – I do
and restore myself with Edward Gorey’s

The Glorious Nosebleed’s glorious placements.
This now will be a year devoted to adverbs.
Adverbs can push adjectives aside

and if it comes to a choice they can be
the darlings that go. Quickly. For adjectives
are often lewd, wrapped in mufflers endlessly

or walking aimlessly in deserted woods.
A baleful regard will not hurt them.
They are part of the jaded furniture

even if they get themselves up killingly.
See April (the fourth month) they must go.
Gorey sends so many subjects outdoors

with only an adverb to comfort them.
Vaporously, yearningly, the tears flow
tearfully and there is mainly snow

except for someone dancing girlishly on sand
and lightly clothed. Here is the trunk: Presumably
buried nearly to its clasps in snow

and here the drawing room concert: eXcruciatingly
in which the stage cannot be viewed
but a tormented aspidistra waves.

Outdoors and in are both claustrophobic
without an adverb to escape by
quickly, zealously, maniacally.

An adverb can even escape from an adverb
of lesser vitality. Numbly sitting on the train
or yearningly, the arms around a monument.

This shall be, as month zealously on month
floats in misty garments through the year
and an adverb bites each end

the year to honour them, to find
in every incident the adverb
which summarises it and points.


©Elizabeth Smither 2004

Last updated 11 May 2001