Mary Cresswell


Double Damask

The endless lawn is our offering
to the gods of conspicuous consumption

Look at the space we own observe the
amount of water required to maintain it

We added statues picked up on the grand tour
babbling fountains with urny nymphs

Look at our space we own observe the
absence of fruit trees no hills of potatoes

You can’t have it, either, you may mimic
in your own pathetic patch or you may

join us on the terrace, a rolling expanse
a sward of green reaching to the dippy feet

of sheep drifting across the distance,
secure and safely separated by the haha

the sound of money laughing.



Rise up and look around —
realise it has been
an archipelago all along

new measurements required
new boundaries after every wave

Footprints in the sand
are always Friday’s
or Tuesday’s or Saturday’s

The turtles are moving rocks
rehearsing their own futures

as fractals in the sandy surf:
pebble-studded heaps of anemones
reinvented each tidal race

as uncountable
as islands themselves.


Song of the Open Road


piling up riprap
refreshed for the river
juggling sand dunes
digger by digger

warnings of danger
orange and neon
freshly dug potholes
balancing cones

skirting the chaos
blindsided by posts
roaring through yesterday’s
blackberry ghosts


Growing Gulliver

They are assembling him between two hills
lying on his back, crosshead ribs
marching from sandhill hips to sandhill head

Rope dancers scuttle up and down
crawler cranes haul bridge beams into place
across the dunes pre-cast super-tee

Avoided and mitigated, ongoing assessment
proactive investment, revised and remediated:
the language of Lilliput holds him in place


Li Po visits the nature reserve

green light directs us
across the new gully
almost within sight
of the last gabions
lining the revised river
earth-movers gather
snouts aligned north
overstepped by pylons
crossing the old road
five pukeko rampage
unkempt and random
where crested quail
once rolled the road
hustling their young
knowing exactly
where to go next



Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. Fish Stories is her most recent book — published by the Canterbury University Press in 2015, it is reviewed in Cordite (

Cresswell writes: “The group of motorway poems shows how my view of nature has changed since a cloverleaf/interchange started being built in my backyard. I don’t know where ‘Crusoe’ came from unless — given Gulliver — I have been dreaming of the 18th century, though I also quite like turtles as fractals. The other poem recalls a long-ago visit to a deeply stately home somewhere in the middle of the Manawatu or maybe Hawke’s Bay.”