Rebecca Reader lives in Palmerston North and teaches English as a Foreign Language. In a former life she translated medieval rolls of parliament. Studying with Gotham Writers’ Workshop helped turn her creative itches into short stories and poems.
It’s always me who visits you,
but that’s fine. It has to be that way.
The way I stop
on the same pavestone each time,
with the cathedral on the right
and the castle on the left.
The way I look down at you,
not quite 17, not smelling the roses
in the cloister garden (no need), plotting
your first novel, scrapped drafts in drifts
on the grass, chewing your pen, burning
rubber in the suburbs of thought, laying
siege to German verbs, the terms
of Magna Carta and Fitzgerald’s
use of colour in Gatsby, confident
of conquering so much more than
Norman castles, and taking the not-so-courtly
love of boys in your stride. The way I lift
you, one hand only, feel the lightness
and brightness of life on the verge. Stay
always where you are, in that town,
that garden, so I’ll find you with your pen,
your certainty and that roll of the eyes
you do so well, whenever I drop by.
Professor Smythe’s Jog
Subject/verb agreement opens
our morning session at the language school
and I explain why it is that Professor Smythe,
together with Tom Conway, jogs [singular]
each morning at 6, when Tom and the prof
are two people and should technically jog [plural].
Phrases like together with, I explain,
are interruption phrases and can be ignored,
—as all interruptions should be—
in the serious business of subject/verb agreement.
In spoken English, I add, we would most likely
say Professor Smythe and Tom jog at 6,
because it is quicker off the tongue
and spoken English behaves like water;
it will always find the fastest
route, won’t climb a hill
if it can drop down a gully,
won’t meander through meadows
if it can plough a straight course.
Tom and the prof may meander through the park,
climb hills, run five more miles for the hell of it,
but they won’t waste words,
especially not if they’re short of breath.
However, were Professor Smythe a literary type,
specializing, say, in the Victorian novella,
he might well confide that he jogged
together with Tom Conway across the dew-laden
lawns of Richmond Park, autumnal air snipping
his cheeks, dawn’s sweet nectar upon his lips
and the warm rush of virtue in his blood.
And fourteen Chinese brows furrow,
speaking befuddlement faster than the words
of any language.
First published takahe 87