Slow Codes

Bill Nelson Click to

Bill Nelson currently lives Wellington, New Zealand. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at the Victoria University Wellington in 2009, where he was awarded the Biggs Poetry Prize. He has been published in New Zealand journals, such as Hue and Cry, Sport, The 4th Floor and Turbine. Currently, he is working on a manuscript of poems that explores the voice and acts of ventriloquism.

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 gradually returns
to my fingers and the sticky
branches of a spring wind
tap a slow code into the wall.


Note: “Slow Codes” is a poem born and raised in Wellington, a place the New Zealand poet Lauris Edmond once called “the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.”


2 Responses to Slow Codes

  1. Rachel Warrick says:

    I find it interesting that this poem was “born” in a place that was once called “the city of action,” as the poem is largely concerned with inaction. However, the author paints a beautiful picture of inaction, a hiatus from the “slow code” that taps at their wall. This poem perfectly communicates the value of silence in a place that is anything but.

  2. Sam O'Dell says:

    I found this poem oddly underwhelming. It seemed to me as if it were building to something sinister, and at first I expected we would discover the “angular body” was actually dead, or perhaps dying. Instead, it’s a rather every-day poem about the experience of waking up with a part of your body “asleep” from lack of circulation. I do find it interesting the poet constantly refers to whether or not he can remember certain things as he shifts from sleep to wakefullness. He writes that he can barely remember the bird that woke him up, and as the person he’s sleeping next to drifts back to sleep, he writes that he can no longer really remember him/her. It’s interesting that he seems so incapable of remembering things without constant “proof” that they exist.

Comments are closed.