Once I discover my father has given
a favourite eighteen-year-old medical student
a silver pin
crafted like an aeroplane
and a cheque for two nights’ accommodation
in Las Vegas
with a handwritten card that says
‘I wish you well in your public life,
wish to support you in your first flight from home,
I feel this cheque is generous,’
and I watch his hand, surprisingly slender,
the gentle hunch of his shoulders,
his quiet self-smile,

I wonder why I’ve never met this girl
who I learn has hair the colour of cigarillo papers,
voice soft as moccasins,
skin the colour of late magnolia,
her clothes the blue that winter shadows dye the ground

and why now I wake myself from this dream
with the belief that the sound of weeping
must come from the empty bedroom
down the hall.

Emma Neale was born in 1969, and has lived in various New Zealand cities, as well as in California and England. She has a PhD from University College, London, and works in Dunedin as a freelance editor and writer. Random House NZ have published her two collections of poetry and her two novels. In 2000 she held the Todd/Creative New Zealand New Writer’s Bursary.

Neale comments: ‘“Brooch”, which is from my second book of poems, is perhaps best illuminated by a quotation from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which has always been eerily resonant for me (the memory and body a timpani, Brontë the quiet timpanist):

I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

Of course dreams are notoriously punning phenomena. A brooch is “an ornamental fastening, consisting of a safety pin with the clasping part variously fastened and enriched” (from this the words “safety” and “clasping” leap out at me; the dream in the poem is one about vulnerability and loss). Yet the various meanings of the verb (to broach) are themselves synonymous with the actions of dreams: “to veer suddenly; to pierce or thrust through; to give publicity to, or begin discussion about”. It seems to me that dreams often make us confront territory which the daily bustle diverts us from, or which we might deliberately try to skirt in our conscious lives. Dreams can behave like tough inner mentors that push us to our psychological limits.’

Poem source details >



Penguin Books author profile
New Zealand Book Council writer file
TFS—The writer’s place: Emma’s Books