An order is sought for the destruction of the stapler

The athlete takes up position in the apparatus,
prepared for several circuits. Tension
cranked up, the pain of those late
extensions can be anticipated
already, and it’s only ten o’clock.

The press bench empties after one
murder; eleven men beat their partners; fifteen men
and women drive drunk, one injures
a passenger; methamphetamine, indecency, cannabis, 
methamphetamine again; two benefit fraudsters;
then a cheque fraudster with forty-seven
charges, forty-seven informations, forty-
seven repetitive notations to make; defended
bails, and it’s lunch-time already.

The athlete checks with the trainer: how many
still to go? Thirty-two. But there were twenty-nine 
at ten and we’ve done heaps more than that.
OK, a special Police operation so we’ll be here
until six, maybe longer. Could top
ninety today.

We are on the river now: the mind must assess
each stroke; the arm reach in each case, dip
for the law, pull powerfully, cleanly. The river 
maintains a placid surface, seemingly serene 
in relentless flow, while the athlete
sweats at the sculls, exercising the iron
craft, evenly, evenly, achingly, to day’s end.

John Adams was born in Matamata in 1947 and grew up near Walton, a Waikato farming community, where his father was a builder and his mother was a primary school teacher. He lives in Auckland. A district court judge and family court judge since 1995, he has been writing poetry and short stories since 2007. He graduated Master of Creative Writing (2010), and was awarded a Graduate Diploma in Arts (English) (2011), both from Auckland University. The poem ‘An order is sought for the destruction of the stapler’ appears in his collection Briefcase(Auckland University Press, 2011). Briefcase concerns languages used by the law; it has been described as ‘a disordered novella’ comprising poems, altered legal documents and short prose pieces.

His poems have appeared in Brief #42 (2011) and a fine line (January 2012); as well as internationally in Percutio #4 (2010) and He has not yet submitted any stories for publication but is about to do so, with a series of connecting short stories called the Elbow Stories. He has performed at poetry readings in Auckland and Wellington.

Adams comments: ‘This poem describes what it can be like to be a District Court Judge in a criminal list court, an everyday experience for many – a legal quotidian. The poem exhibits more adverbs than is regarded (generally) as good poetic manners. It is drawn from my direct experience. I confess that the rowing metaphor is imagined although I can claim mitigating attendances at a gymnasium. At the time of writing, I was impressed by some of our outstanding rowers, both men and women, and coincidentally, the judiciary includes the same two genders. The judge in the poem could be either.’

‘I believe that the first duty of a public writer is to entertain. Some of my poetry is experimental and the topics are perhaps eclectic but I want my readers to be rewarded for any effort required of them. Among other things, I am interested in performance poetry where the audience can participate. Poetry, even mine, is at its most vibrant where the reader/audience is actively engaged.’

Poem source details >



‘Parse me’ at nzepc
Briefcase at Auckland University Press
Three poems at