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
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.’
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 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006
Sport 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, and 36
Turbine 04, 08,
Turbine 04: James Brown interviewed
‘Song of the Rising’ on Duets
'Fully Nowhere' in Trout 11
James Brown's Tip Track blog