the cold is startling, 

One tree broadcasts red
among its neighbours – 
not lovely, exactly, just
not green. A gecko
in the washing, crumpled
like a glimpse of slate sky
through a cloud
of sheets – perfect
piece of winter. 
Despite all night
in the machine, not dead,
just shocked and clean.

And us, our limbs in bed
like those of startled
horses – skittish, mad
for warmth.

And even though
there’s no snow
this far north,
I like to think of Rabelais
who wrote in his ‘Pantagruel’
of battle sounds trapped
in the ice.
When spring came around
and thaw set in
they once again
were heard.

what would we

Jenny Bornholdt is a poet and occasional anthologist. She has published nine collections of poems, including Miss New Zealand: Selected Poems (VUP, 1997). Her latest, The Rocky Shore, won the 2009 Montana Book Award for poetry. In 2003, she was named an Art Foundation of New Zealand Laureate. In 2005, she became the fifth Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate which resulted in the collection Mrs. Winters Jump (Godwit, 2007). In 2010, Jenny was the Writer in Residence at Victoria University. She wrote a book of poems, The Hill of Wool, which will be published by Victoria University Press in May 2011.

Bornholdt comments: ‘“May” began with the red tree in the fourth line. I spent much of 2010 staring out the window from my Writer in Residence office at Victoria University in Wellington. The view was beautiful – through trees down to the city streets and buildings and out to the harbour and hills beyond. In the middle of winter – one which seemed particularly cold – there was a tree which had extraordinarily bright red leaves standing amongst others which were bare-branched. This tree gathered the rest of the poem about it. I’d been reading a lot about memory and forgetting – that’s where Rabelais and the ice came from – and I wondered what we as individuals, and then as members of society, would preserve from this time in the world’s history.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
Victoria University Press author page
nzepc—New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: online work
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre: online work
Random House New Zealand: Search for Mrs Winter’s Jump by Jenny Bornholdt
Ponatahi House, Wairarapa, 2003