Elizabeth Smither


Grown-up son, reading

He is reading a motorcycle manual. A Kawasaki.
While I have my head in an autobiography.

He reads of pistons and fine adjustments
while I read of incidents and suppositions.

There is truth for each of us. But how
companionable it feels. Two heads lowered—

mine raised briefly to record—the look
that belongs to books. The brow leaning

as if the brain shifts to the forefront of its house
like someone standing alertly at the top of stairs

with one foot lightly on a tread
and all self-consciousness gone, no

thought of making an entrance or an impression
though he rides his Kawasaki to the bottom

to cheers and scandal and thronging girls
and I step lightly through my autobiography.


Sarah: pregnancy 2

Your shape: we know
you’re one of those women who
become a pumpkin early. Later
you’ll place your hands under
your belly the way pumpkins
are sometimes raised on boards
so they ripen dry. Your face
however your body swells remains a girl
amazed at a gift she can’t believe in
while all your cells—your former cells—
seem to be singing from a polished throat.
The percussive kicks are simply music
this time around as if your heart grew limbs
and time thickens and slows in the remembered way
and races in the remembered way.



Elizabeth Smither has published 14 collections of poetry and was the first woman Te Mata Estate poet laureate (2001–2003). She also writes short stories and novels: a new novel Different kinds of pleasure will be published by Penguin in July. Of the present poems, Smither writes: “My very petite daughter, Sarah, becomes enormously large when she is pregnant: a pumpkin, a small caravan. Then she becomes petite again. I was trying to say something about the memory that is in a second pregnancy: not just the largeness but all the other remembered details. ‘Grown-up son reading’ was the feeling of companionship, though the books we were reading were very different: a motorcycle manual and the biography of Margot Fonteyn. That lovely silence of being engrossed and the closeness too.”