new zealand electronic poetry centre

S o m e   s h e l l s   i n   a   t o b a c c o   t i n

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                                                                     Emma Neale


Don't Stay Up Too Late, Love

Night, and the study window burns
not like a beacon, but as if to warn
late travellers from some hidden reef

of thought: how to stockpile time, how hoard its shine
when time's the very stuff that seeps inside us,
red web that spiders from the heart?

Cars pass the house: none stops, as if piloted by
mariners who already know melancholia's bleak shoals.
Yet something does slow:

half a dozen moths, the window's chill glass
their rink, their stage.
They see this man is an island of light.

They skate across the white-lit screen:
a ballet-corps in copper and gold
they toe-dance, tap-dance, pas de papillon de nuit,

pirouette and quiet morse, grand jêté and semaphore,
wild as seabirds but precise as needlepoint
they spit like sparks from a campfire's heart.

Their wing-flickers signal
how hard it is to reach across
the cold skin between the mind and its ideal;

they shadow-act the wife
who stands behind him in the doorway
as she waits, watches, tries to speak

across the distance between long love, its first dream.

And yet, as they lance the midnight air
like flakes of sun that fall through trees
they seem to ask what brighter beauty is there

than in this striving, the effort of the dance?





Emma Neale

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