homewards

most poems draw on childhood
but you only have one, so be careful
not to exhaust it

you can try writing poems
from someone else’s perspective
– the woman you stood behind
in the queue at the Pizza Hut,
or the protagonist of the novel
you picked up at random
from the shelves of that unfamiliar library –
but trust me, they always end up
being about you

my childhood appears in memory
to have been mostly cold buffeted beaches and
Pohutukawa trees, but in reality
that can’t have been its whole content
and Pohutukawa trees are not very useful
material for imagery now that I’m
on the other side of the world writing poetry
for people who have never seen one

I want to advise you
to stop reading poetry forthwith
and instead go to New Zealand to witness
the Pohutukawa trees trailing their
snakeskin fingers into the ocean
dropping red flowers into the foaming waves

but the borders are closed, the world
is hunching in upon itself and besides
the trees that I remember are trapped
inside my past under skies that
for some reason are always iron grey
so the truth is there’s no way
you can possibly see them now

Emily Adlam’s poetry has been published in collections including The Mays XIX, New Zealand Poetry Society annual collections, Re-Draft and the Oxford University Poetry Society anthology. Her debut novel was recently bought by HarperCollins Italia.

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