my youth was glass
pip of my heart
on gut and vein
for all to see

dark currents bore
me west then south
to a place where waves
shattered at a wall
of grey shingle

I wriggled through and
dropped into my life

bird pipe
flax rattle
mud suck
green leaf
spinning on water

suspended in my small
pond I lived my hundred
years forgetful of the sea
beyond the bar knowing
only the dimple of rain
soft blur of stars

growing thick as your
leg on shreds torn from
dead sheep snapping
at flies but never taking
proffered bait

I have lived as you have
lived: cautiously

but now I am old
and the sea knocks
at my head and there’s
a taste to the water
that was not there before

I cannot eat cannot settle
guts shrunk to dry rattle
I turn head on to the current
and swim against the stream
drawn by the sound in my head

my eyes see more clearly
than they have ever seen
they are rimmed with blue
so that I may see in the dark
that lies ahead

I think more clearly
than I have ever thought
my brow flattens so that
I may move without impediment
through the dark that lies ahead

my belly is heavy
frilled with eggs
20 million strung
on velvet

I am become lean
and full of purpose

I cross the bar
on a moonless night
skin scraped blood raw
on sharp shingle

I drop back into the dark
into the ocean where
everything moves faster
and the lights confuse

I find my path my body
freighted with millions

I am heavy with the
future I bear it along
the dark path through
forests of kelp and
booming cavern
following the taste
in the water
and the stars marking
sharp left and right

I swim north then
east one undulating
muscle one blunt head
barking at the moon

I swim to the place
where it is time to burst

I heave and writhe
torn flesh

egg dances to sperm
the water glitters like
broken glass

and now that’s done
I drift upon the surface


old bag

skin for gulls

old bag

Fiona Farrell is a novelist and poet from Otanerito on Banks Peninsula. She is currently living in Ireland as one of the inaugural recipients of the Rathcoola Residency for Australian and New Zealand writers and artists.

Farrell comments: ‘The eel in NZ has some of the same mythic quality accorded to the snake elsewhere. For NZ children it is the sinister creature of deep pools. Researching material for a brochure about Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere near Christchurch, I became aware of the extraordinary life led by eels, especially the largest long finned females, and as I become older, the lives of old female creatures take on a greater power.’

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