The Spell

The painter says it’s Virgo season.
I conjure calming images, mist rising
over mountains, a woman’s smile, silk running
thru my fingers.

But look around you, it’s poison season,
the burst pipes in the acid sea, the smoke
giving way to smoke in the salt sky,
the untaxed billions underneath
making it worse
what we can’t yet see coming.

I look at the painter’s black paintings,
how he showed me the silence
of deafness.

I cook slick onions cause the restaurants
are closed. I stop going to boxing,
I stop looking at burning photos, I stop

How does the world know me.

I hear it thru my phone, poison season.
I try to think less thru mindfulness.
I try to think less thru mindfulness.

I empty
the trash.

Everything’s a scam.

Look at this
is what is always being said
and look at this
        and this
                 and this.

Nikki-Lee Birdsey was born in Piha. She has a PhD from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and a BA from New York University. Her poetry and prose has been published in various journals in Aotearoa and abroad, including most recently in Poetry New Zealand, The Iowa Review, Fence and Sport. Her first book, Night as Day, was published by Victoria University Press in 2019. She sometimes teaches poetry at the IIML and is co-editor of the poetry journal Sweet Mammalian

​Poem source details >


Te Herenga Waka University Press (formerly VUP) author page

Photographer credit: Ebony Lamb