Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wadestown, by Bill Nelson

There is a hand asleep
under a heavy hip bone.
There is memory of love,
a pip and soft bruises.

I'm not sure how we fit
but it seems this dead hand
is my hand, this angular
body is your body.

All night we lie this way
and I am jerked awake
by a bird I can hardly
remember. I pull out

my lifeless arm and drape it
over your shoulder. It’s okay,
you say, as if I have asked
an impossible question.

In a few moments the numb
goes and you drift off
and I'm not sure you ever were
actually here. The blood returns

to my fingers, along with
the sticky branches of a
spring wind tapping
its slow code into the wall.

                                         Editor, Saradha Koirala

So much and so little happens in this poem. I love the mystery surrounding who is really present, played out in the dead hand coming back to life. Sleep and memory intermingle and I especially like the lines “I am jerked awake / by a bird I can hardly/ remember”, as they link so perfectly the two elements working together here: a definite, palpable physicality of body parts and the intangible, inexplicability of not quite speaking, not quite remembering; a “slow code” tapped out by something solid.

Bill Nelson seems to be a favourite of Tuesday Poets, having previously appeared here and here. In 2009 he won the Biggs Poetry Prize for best MA poetry portfolio at the IIML and has had writing published in Hue & Cry, Sport, The Lumière Reader, Blackmail Press, 4th Floor and Swamp.

I have only recently met Bill but look forward to reading more of his poetry, in which he seems to be able to turn the gritty truth into something much more surprising, more elusive.

Wadestown is published with permission. 

This week's editor, Saradha Koirala, is a Wellington poet. Her first collection wit of the staircase was published by Steele Roberts in 2009. Her work has also appeared in literary magazines including Hue & Cry, Sport, broadsheet and The Listener. When she's not teaching at a local secondary school, Saradha is working on her second book.

For more Tuesday Poems from our Tuesday Poets and others they admire - look into the right hand sidebar. When it says 'Tuesday Poem' in the title, click to enter. 


Jennifer Compton said...

great stuff

Elizabeth Welsh said...

'I'm not sure how we fit' - beautiful.

Mary McCallum said...

I am thrilled by this poem - the weight- welded-togetherness and, paradoxically, apartness it evokes. The awkwardness ... Ah, really love it. Thank you, Saradha.

Helen Lowe said...

I loved those last lines:

"the sticky branches of a
spring wind tapping
its slow code into the wall."

Thanks for sharing Bill's poetry with us, Saradha,

Anonymous said...

Bill is just a favourite!

Penelope said...

Numb, lifeless, dead, impossible; in one sense the poem is about the hopelessness of ever knowing ourselves, let alone anyone else. Yet the blood is flowing again by the end, even though we started with a bruise (a kind of shadow of blood). The code of the tree remains quite indecipherable, however.

A beautiful poem, capturing that half-awake at 3am state so well. I'll have to find more of his work. Thanks for posting.

Harvey Molloy said...

I just want to read more of his poetry. Great work. I keep going back to 'a pip and soft bruises.'

Anonymous said...


Keith Westwater said...

evocative, ambiguous, cocooned in a half-wake half-sleep world, there but not there - thanks for giving us this poem to read, Saradha

Helen Rickerby said...

I especially like: 'It's okay,/you say, as if I have asked/an impossible question.'

Thanks for sharing this.

lillyanne said...

A gorgeous poem and a new poet to me: double treat.