JENNY BORNHOLDT

Flight

It came to pass
that I boarded a plane
and as I edged past the man
in the aisle seat he said
my name is Dov. I knew
you would come.

So Dov came to pass
and then the next thing
came to pass which was
the plane, which fell through the air
so that all felt and understood
the word ‘slew’.

We held the hands of those
next to us. Dov’s hand. Dov
who knew I would come.
The hand of my son, who said
hang on, I’ll just finish listening
to this song.

And it came to pass
that in those seconds of fall
we entered the deluge zone
which was dark and dangerous
and it came to pass
that we thought things
we hadn’t thought before
and understood things
that couldn’t be said out
loud or even in our quiet
pulpy insides.

We understood
that children sucked life
from their mothers
then led it back in
in mysterious ways.

We understood
that men damaged children
in shocking unspeakable
ways and in quiet
secretive ways and in silence
and murk.

Somehow
dandelions marjoram
thistle and thrush
came to pass.
And a bank teller
named ‘Snow’.

And then it came to pass
that we turned away
from where we were headed
because the wind there
was too strong
to land safely on one engine.
We turned away
from the wind bothering the trees,
flaying pansies, knocking lemons
one against another;
away from hymns ancient and
modern; from the holes
dug in the garden for kitchen scraps
which resemble graves
prepared for a succession
of small animals.

Away we turned, back
to a runway on which waited
emergency vehicles
and so it came to pass
that we touched ground
whole, feeling lucky
and afraid.

Being out of danger
it came to pass
that we broke the chain of hands
that held us, though not the chain
of thoughts – that held.
And held. And led us
to the tightly fenced park
where bodies lie, decomposing,
terrifying yet natural,
faces slurred into earth,
and to the deer who come
and delicately nuzzle bone.

Jenny Bornholdt has published ten books of poems, the most recent of which is Selected Poems. Her collection The Rocky Shore was made up of six long poems and won the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2009. She is the co-editor of My Heart Goes Swimming: New Zealand Love Poems and the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, and editor of Short Poems of New Zealand.

Jenny Bornholdt (photographer credit: Deborah Smith)

Photo by Deborah Smith

Jenny’s poems have appeared on ceramics, on a house, on paintings, in the foyer of a building and in letterpress books alongside drawings and photographs. She has also written two children’s books.

Bornholdt comments: ‘On a flight between Auckland and Wellington, our plane lost an engine. I wanted to write about that experience, but couldn’t find a way in to or out of it. There were two other things tugging at my sleeve – the “deluge zone” signs painted on the sides of the Hataitai tunnel and a memoir by photographer Sally Mann, Hold Still, which includes photographs she took at the Body Farm, the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility, where human bodies are left in the wild to decompose. After a long time of thinking, these three things came together as “Flight”.’  

​Poem source details >

Links
Jenny’s Victoria University Press author page
Book Council writer profile