Rose and fell

Moist geometry unfurls.
          Dawn flushes the birds
from their silence

— hectic petticoats trimmed
          with disappearing mist —
and there, under a shaggy hem

          of pines, the monster Grendel
stealing home, mouth full
          of pinking shears.

His rough palm grips the bruised
          root of a plant torn
from a mountainside

          releasing scent of a more
legendary bloom.
                              His pelt

glistens, the girl’s words
          trapped moths
in his uncomprehending ears.

Wings of flowers
               fall and star
the path behind him

          as he travels
swiftly over the ground
          breathing     breathing.

Chris Price was born in Auckland in 1962 and now lives in Wellington. She has masters degrees in English and German from the University of Auckland and in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington. She has worked as an in-house editor in trade publishing. From 1993 to 2000 she edited Landfall, New Zealand’s longest-running literary magazine. Since 1992 she has co-ordinated the biennial Writers and Readers Week in Wellington. She occasionally plays percussion in an improvisational music line-up called Waiting for Donald. Her first collection of poetry, Husk, was published by Auckland University Press in March 2002.

“While working on the final group of poems for my first book, I stumbled on the strategy of holding single words or phrases up to my ear like shells, and listening for the whisper of stories they might contain. ‘Rose and fell’ was the title of a dance work by New Zealand choreographer Douglas Wright that I’d seen four years earlier. I don’t recall what brought the title to mind again in 2001, but its two contrasting and perfectly balanced terms began to hint at a kind of fairy-tale narrative of good and evil. Some time in the preceding year, I’d listened to Seamus Heaney reading his translation of Beowulf, and elements of that epic (such as the figure of Grendel) also surface in the poem. The plant mentioned is rose-root, a herb which grows in rocky districts or on cliffs. Its root, when crushed or dried, gives off the scent of roses.”

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Auckland University Press