There is a birth every morning,
the sides of the sea-wall breaking
into the new sight. It is certain
this must happen every morning.

The rocks lift away from under
the new skin of the water.

There is no reminder of the breaking,
the halving of the sense at reason’s falling,
the excavation of the heart’s regions
as it is emptied out.

The depth here in the harbour
moves out with the ledges under water.

The ear listens at the new stretches
but there is nothing,
just that it deepens, widens;
there is nothing underneath but silence.

13 September 2001

Anna Smaill was born in Auckland in 1979, and now lives and works in Wellington. She studied performance violin at Canterbury University, before deciding to concentrate on writing. In 2001 she completed an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and following this finished an MA thesis from Auckland University that focused on the novels of Janet Frame. Her work has been published in Sport and she is currently working on a collection of poetry.

Smaill comments: ‘I find that I have “paper” poems and “head” poems. This is definitely a “head” poem, in that it came to me first as a group of rhythms and word-cadences. Following September 11, words of response seemed so quickly emptied out of meaning. Writing that directly recorded or described what had happened felt too soon, and to presume too much solidity (when so much had been shown insubstantial). Yet walking around Wellington harbour in the days afterward, these rhythms and sets of half-rhyming words started coming, and were, I know, my own response to the emotions and images. In some ways the poem is consolatory, but it was also an evocation of the emptiness I felt, and a feeling almost of affront at the way time and nature seemed so impassive to human events.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council author profile
Victoria University Press