Elizabeth Smither

Two security guards talking
about Jupiter

Four little canvas bags of takings, one float, one
cash box and two guards to open the security room
where the squat safe is waiting. End of day ritual

but tonight they are talking of Jupiter
in male fashion. Did you see that
TV programme? About what the Earth

will be like when it dries out? A prune
sinking in on itself. A dustbowl falling
inwards like the orchestrated blowing up

of a building that comes down on the
spot ordained. Jupiter, on the contrary,
is a crystal planet. How strange, fitting

the cash bags in, pushing the cash box back
turning the handle so the teeth of the door mesh
and the maker’s gold seal glows in the light

then finally the long thin key that someone
locked in the room might turn to open
to take out the bags and play with the money

but be unable to escape because the door
is dead bolted. Walking away, thinking
how like a little safe this planet is

locked tight, we trust, for the night
its systems meshed. Earth preserved
in its abundant waters, Jupiter in its dark moonlets.



Elizabeth Smither’s new collection of poems, The Year of Adverbs, will be published by Auckland University Press in August. Smither writes: “When I worked as a librarian one of the highlights at the end of the day was to carry the cash box, the float bags, and the takings to the safe on the top floor. Two librarians, accompanied by two security guards—though the takings were minuscule—would walk along the deserted corridors and go through the ritual of stowing the bags, closing the safe and locking the outer door. One night I overheard one of the guards talking about Jupiter.”