In Topeka, Kansas
Well, after all, you want to be free.
You want to wear a faded T-shirt
with a hole in the armpit, of a weekend,
to fetch up in Topeka, Kansas,
and to have a wife who is pleasant in her ways
and some rowdy kids, a tipped-over
bicycle in the yard and a rose garden—
big, blowsy yellow roses—
out front that your venerable neighbours
admire, in their courtly fashion, as they pass.
That’s how it is in Topeka, you imagine,
that’s how it is, but already you’re fretful,
the yellow roses a step too far, and besides,
the old threads are looping around again,
tying you into the wicker chair on the porch
where you sit and swat the flies away,
the flies being bothersome in summer,
in Topeka, Kansas, all the livelong day.
Tim Upperton’s second collection, The Night We Ate The Baby (Haunui Press) was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016. He won the Bronwyn Tate Memorial International Poetry Competition in 2011, and the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Competition in 2012 and 2013. His poems are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (Victoria University Press), Essential New Zealand Poems (Random House), Villanelles (Everyman), and Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (Dartmouth University Press).
Tim comments: ‘I’ve always been attracted to poems of reinvention—poems of tearing yourself up by the roots and transplanting in a new location, where you can flourish and be whoever you aspire to be. It’s a Walter Mittyish idea, a daydream, and—as in Philip Larkin’s Poetry of Departures—doomed to failure. In my poem I’ve chosen a place I’ve never visited, and the language is inflected with what I imagine may be the local idiom: “of a weekend”, “fetch up”, “livelong day”, etc. My American friends may kindly correct me on this, as one has already corrected my pronunciation of “Topeka”, but I’m not sure accuracy is that important: this is my Topeka of the mind.’