Fled is that music

All your sleeves

You are losing hold
        of your leaves; they

flake from you, wind-scaled
        and thankful.

After so much
        control, such falling

apart: memory’s short term
        then school’s out —

the birds disperse and wheel
        over alien corn.

A constant effort drains
        your sense. Just sometimes you’ll

overhear a loner singing
        on viewless wings, his small

melodious plot staked out
        from a bare branch in the ashfield.

Chris Price was born in England in 1962, grew up in Auckland 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 in publishing, edited literary journals and for many years co-ordinated the biennial Writers and Readers Week in Wellington. Her first collection of poetry, Husk, was published by Auckland University Press in March 2002. In 2004 she joins the staff of the International Institute of Modern Letters, where she will teach a poetry workshop and manage the Institute’s publications and events programme.

Price comments: ‘ “Fled is that music” came in the aftermath of a period of chronic overcommitment, during which I got close enough to the edge of burnout to smell the foul odours arising from the pit, but stopped a few millimetres short of actually falling in. Although it portrays the effects of long-term insomnia, it occurred to me as I was writing that it could also serve as a picture of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Both have their moments of lucidity, even beauty, in an otherwise devastated landscape.

‘I should own up to the fact that John Keats is owed half the credit for this magpie poem, which steals and crumples up some bright phrases from “Ode to a Nightingale” for its ramshackle nest. Echoes from Macbeth and even The Great Gatsby are thrown in for good measure.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Auckland University Press author page