new zealand electronic poetry centre


Elizabeth Smither

online works
Forbidden to use Larkin's Next, Please for a speech exam

Never that, says the nun who teaches me
sight-reading and set pieces - conversation
since I am older can be left to my imagination.
What I really require are skills of listening.

But not Larkin. Not prinked nor golden tits
can save it, in her estimation. Too drear, too flat
like some seas seen from a cliff.
One would need a straw in one's mouth to say that.

It makes death sound so flat-bottomed, be-
calmed and drifting. How sad the voice that tries
to fit that collapsed thing into vibrant speech.
So I will not say Larkin at my speech exam.


Last updated 11 May 2001