Harry Ricketts


Indirect Popcorn 2

This agreeably battered and foxed copy
of The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

(Jonathan Cape, 1970) was given to me
by the painter Karl Maughan. According

to the flyleaf, it had previously belonged
to Peggy Dunstan, whose capital D resembles

a distant sail suddenly filled by the wind.
Alongside is the price $14.

I’d vaguely assumed that no one read Brautigan now,
that he had disappeared into some time-warp,

where they still roll up to Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter,
say ‘trippy tray’, lounge with the shine of youth.

But when I asked Karl’s wife Emily, who’s a novelist
and teaches creative writing, she said that some

of her students read Brautigan and particularly like
‘The Revenge of the Lawn’ and Trout Fishing in America.

Phil, an Aussie friend in Hong Kong, was a fan
of The Hawkline Monster: A Gothic Western,

used to read out bits while the sun,
a bloated leech, slid behind Lion Rock.

On page 75 of this battered, foxed copy
of The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

is a seven-line poem called ‘Indirect Popcorn’
and, underneath, written slantwise in black ink:

Just a little
thing you’ll
find sometime.
I hope you’re
with love


Making Strange 2
for Max

I took you to the cricket today
— meant to at least, inside my copy
of Station Island which I assumed
you’d annotated, just as you did
my other Heaneys those years ago.

Earlier in Vic Books with flat whites,
Marco and Ross discussed ‘Making Strange’,
agreed that it was Heaney’s father
‘bewildered’ in the field ‘in the tubs
of his wellingtons’, Louis Simpson

the one with ‘travelled intelligence’
brought to meet him. (They were unconvinced
by my suggestion both were Heaney:
the stay-at home, the seasoned poet.)
Ross, at some point, said for anyone

Irish ‘making strange’ would call to mind
a child being awkward with adults.
At the Basin, it was hot, the game
long gone. Lyon was looping them up,
Southee hitting sixes, holing out.

I reread the poem, rinsed the rest
of the book, certain that somewhere
I’d come across your spidery script.
But if you’d ever been there, you’d left
no sign, nothing to make the loss less strange.


Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)
for Roger

Your statue sits in Central Park
together with Shakespeare and Burns and Scott.
Swathed, cross-legged, mutton-chop-whiskered,
you stare into silence. From your right hand
dangles a pen like a .45.
10,000 saw the dedication.

You belonged to the Knickerbocker
Group. You were admired by Dickens, were dubbed
“the American Byron”, though
Poe regarded your ‘Fanny’ as ‘little
less than torture’. Your friend, Joseph Drake,
you thought ‘perhaps the handsomest man

in New York’, and called his marriage:
‘a sacrifice at the shrine of Hymen’.
He died young, soon after, tb.
His widow hoped to marry you, the witch.
Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems
pub. 1827 made your name.

You worked for John Jacob Astor,
were a trustee of what later became
the New York Public Library,
retired to Guildford, lived with your sister.
Your last words, so they say, were: “Marie,
hand me my pantaloons, if you please.”

Now you’re head of the oubliette
near Kipling’s ‘limbo of lost endeavour
where all the characters go’, greet
each newcomer with that New England charm:
‘Robert, welcome. Rosamund. Mark!’
Your statue sits in Central Park.



Harry Ricketts’s most recent collection of poems is Half Dark (Victoria University Press, 2015).

Ricketts writes: “I’m fascinated by the marginalia you sometimes find in poetry books: scribbled comments, question marks, exclamation marks, notes, squiggly lines. These three poems come out of that fascination.”