back toJacket2

Jacket 16 — March 2002   |   # 16  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   | to New Zealand Contents list     

New Zealand feature

Murray Edmond: Three Ballads

Ballad of Child-Rearing

Two-of-a-kind like birds-in-the-hand
Like lines in a play
We were swaddled and laid on our backs
The custom of that time

The backs of our skulls are flat
Our teeth are rotten with strontium
Like a rabbit or a horse
We carry the marks of our astonishment

The government waited three days
Before announcing the explosion
The cloud from Chernobyl
Took a circuitous course through the centre of the universe

There is no sky like that one
You can say that again
And you did
It is very like a whale

The whale breaches with no land in sight
Aurora australis
The light in your head shows up in the photo
In x-ray images our bones are like birds


Nothing but oranges bananas and rice
Snakes and darkness
The owners will return in six months
Meanwhile look after these men

The white sky turns black at night
The black sky turns white by day
These ugly men building this resort
Do not know if they will ever be paid

The poison of boredom
Infects all ventures of enterprise
My boyfriend is surprised he stayed with me so long
But after three months he has gone

After six months the owners return
We drive three days back to the city
They leave me in the square
They do not pay me a cent

The air is like ice
My dress hangs cool and pure
My mind is fixed on the nothing I have
My knees are pulled up to my chin

Guido walks up to me
Here take this he says
The wad of money is warm in my hand
I watch his departing back with affection

The Cold War

The cold war was at home
And it also filled the whole earth
A fallout shelter in the backyard
A Russian car you did not want

Undiscussability and non-initiation
Its apostles had spread out through the world
In a religious kind of movement
The name of Patrice Lumumba was pure language power

The invocation of the lost and future world
Became our daily bread
You are feeding the chickens
With your little friend a tiny white-skinned boy in knickers

Your babcia watches
The cold war was always going to last forever
It had no choice and neither did we
It was a kind of character or relative

Your grandfather holds the reins of the horse
The horse is coming into the picture from the right
The Russian car is in the background
How much worse off you were

We loved the cold war like we loved ice cream
It gave us peace silence time to resent
Gift-wrapped and passed from hand to hand unopened
It is the anecdote of the piece of string

Photo of Murray Edmond

Murray Edmond has published eight books of poetry, the latest Laminations (Auckland UP, 2000), and forthcoming in 2002 from Tinfish in Honolulu A Piece of Work. He is the editor of three anthologies, most recently Big Smoke (Auckland UP, 2000; reviewed by Philip Mead in this issue of Jacket) with Alan Brunton and Michele Leggott. Teaches English and Drama at the University of Auckland.
You can read his article ‘No Paragraphs: Meditations on Noh, Poetry, Theatre and the Avant-garde’, in this issue of Jacket. See

Jacket 16 — March 2002  Contents page
Select other issues of the magazine from the | Jacket catalog | read about Jacket |
Other links: | top | homepage | bookstores | literary links | internet design |
Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that this material is copyright. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose

This material is copyright © Murray Edmond and Jacket magazine 2002
The URL address of this page is