Siobhan Harvey


Woman at a window

I see her as a portrait:
caught behind liquid transparency;
framed; tear-eyed; her pale face
distilling weak light.

As if suspended,
she stands at her window for hours.
The disintegration into sobbing;
the lip-trembling;
the glassiness of the stare:
these draw me to spy
(no, too harsh a word!) to study her,
even though I wish it weren’t so.

If I could erase the distance between us,
we might converse about death,
violence, a star-crossed affair
or whateveritis
that’s causing her to cry.

And if I could tell her that we’re alike,
our worlds equally askew,
I might see reflected back at me
someone other than myself.



Siobhan Harvey is an émigré poet whose work has been published in numerous international publications, including fin (UK), A Good Handful: Great New Zealand Poems about Sex, Landfall, the Listener, Lumiere Reader, Meanjin (Aus), Kaupapa: New Zealand Writers, World Issues, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) and Swings and Roundabouts: Poems about Parenting.

Harvey writes: “‘Woman at a window’ is a poem which is emblematic of my ongoing engagement with the theme of exile and dislocation. In this, the poem—like much of my work—has an experiential and confessional framework to it. Certainly, I remember very vividly the days during my first few years of settlement in New Zealand when I stood at my kitchen window crying and feeling desolate as I negotiated my assimilation into my new land. I remember also how, one such day, I wondered what an onlooker staring out at me from their home nearby would make of me and my distress. It was this consideration which proved to be the inspiration for ‘Woman at a window’. Only as I wrote and edited the poem over the next few years did it strike me that, perhaps, the onlooker might also be feeling equally distraught and troubled. Contemplating this fact gave me a denouement to the poem.”