Return to Poetry

A woman is kneeling in a stream

This poem is about a small specific situation, but a much larger drama is going on behind it. It’s also about detail. Both of those are things that I really like in a poem.

This poem is included in Best New Zealand Poems 2016. 

Sharp stones jab her knees,
her calves ache with cold.
She is on all fours,
the water whirls
around her white wrists.
If it were calmer,
she would see her reflection,
but the river is churning
because here it narrows
and the bank becomes
an unexpected drop
hidden by long grass.
Small feet running
will go over before
they even know
there’s danger.

The woman is looking
for a tiny foot gouge,
a skid on a bank,
a scrap of skirt.

She feels that life is
rushing out of her
as fast as water,
she feels as though
she will never
stand up again.