The Wedding Present

He watches us
unwrap the hours

spent in his shed,
seated on wheelchair vinyl,

by a lack of air.


The mornings began cold,
his fingers stiff
beyond the contraction
of age. He held 
a fishtail chisel 
in one hand, a mallet 
in the other, his grasp 
steadily loosened 
by the rhythm 
of metal and wood.

Oxygen streamed 
through a clear tube 
she uncoiled along carpet, 
down steps, over grass, 
into his vaselined nostrils.
She served him coffee 
next to the turps, lunch 
amongst shavings of wood. 
They talked sometimes. 
She took a photo 
so we’d know.


There is a grey hush.
I can feel his grip,
the faltering burst of the tools.
And if I listen beyond the
tock, tock, tock 
of an inching chisel,

I can hear the hum 
of a box 
extracting air.

Angela Andrews has recently published her first book of poetry, Echolocation (Victoria University Press, 2007).  She spends most of her time raising her two young sons, and has previously worked as a doctor.  Her work also appears in Best New Zealand Poems 2005.

Andrews comments: ‘ “The Wedding Present” is about my grandfather.  In the months leading up to my wedding he was very ill, and required continuous oxygen.  It was during this time that he made a replica of a Maori carving he’d done in the eighties, when I was around four years old.  The carving had hung in my grandparents’ lounge for as long as I could remember – this big kauri creature with paua shell eyes and fish scales – I was overawed by it as a child.  My husband Nick is Maori, and had also admired it, and I think that must have been part of the reason my grandfather was driven to undertake such a big project, despite his physical state.  We found out about all of this just before the wedding, when he presented us with the finished piece.  He died two months later.’

Poem source details >



Victoria University Press author page
Lumiere Reader: A Chat with Angela Andrews
Best New Zealand Poems 2005