Monday, April 26, 2010

Coverage by Tim Jones

He went south with the housing market
to a cottage facing the sea,

spent his last pay cheque
on Swannis and draught excluders.

Coverage was minimal.
He called his children

from the top of a nearby hill,
struggling through gorse, matagouri —

the visible teeth of the wind.
He got through at last

and begged until she put them on.
Given the chance, the kids talked

and talked: sports, school, when
they could fly down to see him.

That depends, he said, and then
they were breaking up —

fugitive crackles, then silence
under a polar sky.

Coverage was first published in North & South (May 2007) and is included in Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood (Random House, 2008), edited by Emma Neale.

Tim Jones is a poet and author of both literary fiction and science fiction. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His fiction and poetry has been published in New Zealand, the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, and Vietnam.

His most recent books are short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), which was long-listed for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, poetry collection All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens (HeadworX, 2007), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), which he co-edited with Mark  Pirie. The latest news about Tim and his writing is on his blog at

Tim's Notes on Coverage
This poem went through a couple of versions before the published version you see here. It started from the pun about the housing market going south, which led me to the idea of someone moving south to where houses are cheaper - if I was thinking of anywhere in particular, it was Fortrose, east of Invercargill on the Southland coast, which used to be a thriving little fishing settlement when I was a boy but appeared to be largely abandoned the last time I was in the area.

I felt that the protagonist hadn't made this move by choice - perhaps his relationship had broken up and he had lost, or given up, his job? I pictured him trying, and trying, to get through.

Coverage is reproduced on Tuesday Poem with permission from the author.

Harvey Molloy is this week's editor of the Tuesday Poem. His first book of poems, Moonshot, was published by Steele Roberts in 2008. He has also published non-fiction work on Asperger Syndrome, and is the co-author, with Latika Vasil, of the book Asperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and Identity: Looking Beyond the Label.


Tim Jones said...

Thanks for choosing this poem, Harvey!

Kay Cooke said...

A great example of a TJ poem. Of course I love the southern flavour of it. It's very evocative of the southern coast.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Kay. Fortrose & environs have appeared in two of my poems now - visiting the coast near Fortrose (aka "Two Creek Beach") on a scorching summer day was one of our favourite family pastimes, though it makes me nervous that sunblock was not one of the things we packed in those days...

Helen Rickerby said...

That's kind of heart-breaking Tim. Thank you, and thank you Harvey.

Penelope said...

There's a woodworking term I can't think of so I look up s glossary and get completely sidetracked yet come up with pretty much what I want to say about your poem: a tenon of wit locked into a mortise of heartache = Coverage. Thanks, Tim and Harvey.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen and Penelope. I like that woodworking metaphor, Penelope - it's a vocabulary I lack, as you would know if you ever saw the lopsided masterworks of carpentry I produced at school.