After a blast down Serendipity,
you begin your work in Holloway Road.
Clinical’s wet trees bend their fingers over your head
like ‘Here is the church . . .’. Doors open
and close, but where are the people?
Highbury Fling is fast and gloamy
before a brief openness to the Sanctuary
fenceline. The wind bends through pines.
Then Car Parts. You love this section
—everything broken. On a sunny day
in the morning when the east light
falls through the trees, it’s like being underwater.
Today, you are underwater—a tadpole
beneath the whump whump of the turbine
until you hit the extension.
The narrow sections dare you to grow legs
—so you do. Nothing like kicking a few
trees. Emu’s climb starts smooth: you lock out
your suspension. The foliage falls
away and you’re in barrels of grey
cloud, but the wind has your back.
Sheesh, this is the lee side. Round a ridge
and you scythe the jumped-up rocks
on the downhill sections like
you don’t care. Nobody cares.
Just join the club. But you can’t. Somehow
you pop out, churning, in one piece
and decide to push to the sealed road.
Shit. The wind really is screaming.
You hadn’t noticed, what with your
relentless head, its torch song on
high rotate. Only a mad person
would make for the trig today.
What the hell are you doing?
There are no stupid questions,
only stupid answers.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
Shallows, hollows, grey bellows.

Photo by Frances Samuel

James Brown’s poetry books are Go Round Power Please (winner of the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award), LemonFavourite MonstersThe Year of the Bicycle, and Warm Auditorium. He is the author behind the useful, non-fiction booklet Instructions for Poetry Readings, and in 2005 edited The Nature of Things: Poems from the New Zealand Landscape. He has been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards three times.

James convenes the Poetry Writing workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. His new collection, Floods Another Chamber, is due for publication by Victoria University Press later in 2017.

Brown comments: ‘“Emu” follows Wellington mountain bike tracks from Aro Valley to Hawkins Hill radar dome. The climb is intermediate and relatively sheltered, so it’s easy for one’s mind to wander. It’s the fourth mountain bike climb poem I’ve written, the others being “The Tip Track” (The Year of the Bicycle), “Hill-climb Time Trail” (Warm Auditorium), and “Against Gravity” (Pocket Money/Against Gravity Duets Books). There’s something about the intensity, suffering, and pointlessness of biking up a hill that I find similar to writing poetry.’

Poem source details >


James’s Victoria University Press author page
Jamess New Zealand Book Council writer file
Jamess New Zealand Electronic poetry Centre author page
James and Ashleigh go for a bike ride on Ashleigh Youngs blog
Riding Siberia Gully, Rimutaka incline, 2009
Riding Sally Alley, Makara Peak, 2009