Letter from the New Place

I sleep in a house that is not my house,
not my roof, not my rafters,
here at the far end
of the twisting tail of a land
where only a bucket of gravel will break my fall.

All morning filling out forms
half listening to the sea that storms
and stamps and stammers
learning to pick grapes and apples
learning to read a hundred useless things—
I want to see that, I want to see this—
all the problems, all the damage.

Did you hear what happened to
our path of corrugated iron across the mud—
blown away I’m sorry,
blown away alas,
once it was your mother’s roof.

Now I walk the long way round
to see the man who says
Are you happy
Are you happy with your house
Are you pregnant once again?

Old words, new words,
a few moments of understanding,
and always quickly lost.

You belong to the new place
and I belong to the new place
where I believe we will one day miss each other.

Also the old place,
also the old place too—
the sails and the almost sand and water,
all the terrifying winds.

Bill Manhire was New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate, and is also the founder of a well-known creative writing program at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published several volumes of poetry, including a Selected Poems with both Carcanet in the UK and Victoria University Press in New Zealand. A new collection, Wow, will be published later this year.