The Green Plastic Toy

Four days into the much-vaunted schist landscape, 
what claimed the fullest attention of my brother and I 
was the green plastic toy. 
Among the fractured outcrops and weathered columns, 
the green plastic toy held sway. 
The green plastic toy was never an ‘it’. 
Nor was the green plastic toy ever announced by 
an indefinite article.
The green plastic toy was unique. 
The greenness of the green plastic toy 
was of a hue not to be found anywhere 
within the spectrum of the surrounding nature.
The surface of the green plastic toy had not been 
dulled, altered or encumbered 
by the relentless forces of wilderness in any way.
Had the green plastic toy fallen from heaven?
During rest and meal breaks, my brother and I 
could not wait to unpack the green plastic toy.
I wanted to play with the green plastic toy, 
but my brother felt the green plastic toy 
should only be placed somewhere, 
on a rock or something, and admired.
Consequently, my brother and I sometimes 
fought over the green plastic toy.
Consequently, we were made to share 
the green plastic toy by our father.
Both of us maybe worshipped the green plastic toy.
Both of us maybe coveted the green plastic toy 
for ourselves.
Both of us maybe bestowed upon the green plastic toy 
a secret pet-name which we kept from the other.
When we left the much-vaunted schist landscape 
and returned home, our father told us to place 
the green plastic toy carefully 
in the special treasure drawer, and to leave it be.
And so many years passed, with neither of us making 
any claim for the affections of the green plastic toy.
Then one day I opened the special treasure drawer 
in pursuit of another matter, and noticed
the absence of the green plastic toy.
I accused my brother, who accused me 
of having invented the theft of the green plastic toy 
in order to get back at him over some past grievance.
‘See,’ he said, pulling open the special treasure drawer 
and drawing forth a mere pounamu, 
‘here is the green plastic toy.’
I saw that he spoke the truth for, in his practised hand, 
the mere pounamu had indeed become 
the green plastic toy, which swung 
and shimmered as he advanced toward me
declaiming things about our past relationship
in a language I no longer understood.

James Brown’s four collections of poetry are published by Victoria University Press, Wellington, New Zealand. If you have a copy of Go Round Power Please or The Year of the Bicycle that you don’t want, he will buy it off you. James has been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards three times. He is the author behind the informative booklet Instructions for Poetry Readings, and in 2005 he edited The Nature of Things: Poems from the New Zealand Landscape. In 2010, Pocket Money / Against Gravity, a selection of new poems, was published as part of the Duets series, which pairs New Zealand and United States poets.

Brown comments: ‘The poem began as an exercise in which I decided that every sentence had to include the phrase “the green plastic toy”. The first two thirds came fairly quickly, but it took over a year for the last third to turn up.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Victoria University Press author page 
New Zealand Electronic Poetry centre author page
Best New Zealand Poems 2008 editor’s introduction
Best New Zealand Poems 2001200420052006
Sport 89111215172728293032, and 36
Turbine 0408,
Turbine 04: James Brown interviewed
‘Song of the Rising’ on Duets
'Fully Nowhere' in Trout 11
James Brown's Tip Track blog