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This piece is about 2 printed pages long.
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Engageantes = detachable sleeves
Why put such work by rush or candlelight
into tucks and pleats and slits that open like flowers
when the important shoulders inside fall to dust?
Through thin wavering crooked panes comes
a light divided into little parcels
while the sleeves lie on a bench like mutton
or a long white swan for dressing.
Over the sleeves the dressmakers are bending
working inside them, preparing the battlements
and suspending, on the outside, cascading jewels and ribbons
so the wearer is protected from indifference or too close
an approach. (They forbid intimacy, these engageantes
though admiration is their sense of breathing).
Inside the shoulders stiffen a little, then relax.
It is dual crowns they are wearing, that will come off
like heads upon a spike, by a bridge or tower.
The sleeves will be plucked (by thinnest threads
after all this effort) and then stored flat.
The underside of the miniature plane
The unseasonal season has turned half
its leaves to autumn and half its twigs
to bare winter. Against a sky that
has poured greyness out for a whole day
I look up into structures so complex
and marvellous I think the Eiffel tower
is the merest stick drawing and the stars
(if I could see them) spaced
for rudimentary learning for a
mathematical amateur. Two seasons
(and four) hang about the tree and all
the structures we have yet invented
are underneath in this complexity
so alive it is still working itself out.
Elizabeth Smither has published 15 collections of poetry. She was New Zealand Poet Laureate 2001–3 and in 2008 received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Her most recent collection is ‘The Year of Adverbs’ (Auckland University Press, 2007).