when I was a child

I played by myself in a

corner of the schoolyard     (F.O.)


The animals weren’t friendly                                          but I insisted

& they became cordial      & if anybody asked       I’d  tell them from

my place     in the eucalypt or oak            that I was a conservationist

The proof being my solitude & solitude’s soiled knee               Soiled

for purity of intention & a gold star for dedication            Dedication
being measurable by the    years & the years that follow & the desire

to look up & see                                  more than a mean sun or blue
To look up & see      proof        of the epiphytic canopy I believed in


Now here I am      the centre of all       bucolia   making a sorry buck

where the catch cry is                                                         pittosporum
When did trees get so      boring?     This is my pose     I hardly visit
anymore     I pose     like                     it’s      someone else’s painting

of just so much windburned cheek


I got lost I guess     bad age

I know too many policy analysts & too few self-employed anarchists

or anyone       with a free afternoon                  I’d like to fall in love

with a man who knows the names of trees    some Bruce or Dave or
Hemi who says


ngaio     will hurt your liver &

rangiora     is bad for horses

rewarewa     started popping up about ten years ago         Diane said

what the hell is this                     when one grew & blocked the view

                                                       The neighbour chopped it down

                                                       They were having an affair


kahikatea    butter box

torn stocking trunk of kowhai

tawai        battered remains


When I was a child

hills were hot with gorse     I hid in pine forests       saved a blackbird


Now the view through the windshield                    is as close as I get



But it’s heartening


in this wretched valley       to see the new dank walls    rising up like a
beautiful threat            &                                         I’m kissing a man


who knows the names of birds                                    so that’s a start



Sam Duckor-Jones (photo credit: Ebony Lamb)

Photo by Ebony Lamb

Sam Duckor-Jones was born in Wellington and now lives in the Wairarapa. In 2017 he completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML, for which he won the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry. His first collection People from the Pit Stand Up was published by Victoria University Press in 2018.

​Poem source details >

Victoria University Press author page
Sam’s website