(Allen Curnow 1911-2001)
Grief - or if what’s expected and accepted
cannot be grief, then call it incomprehension -
has kept me from the company of the Muse
and the sweet children she bears me, Rodicus,
because my brother poet has taken his swim
this time in Lethe’s waters, and already I feel
his forgetfulness leaving me, leaving us all, behind.
Never again will I see him dragged by his dog
as if he wore the leash, nor wait for the end
of a witty sentence broken by the lighting of his pipe.
But something of his voice will sound in my lines
as the morepork, heard in a dream, tells us we’re home.
And though I cannot send you poems of my own
I offer this by my older friend Catullus
so you’ll know my boast of verses wasn’t idle.
Let it come to you, as it does in the Roman’s trope,
like an apple given to a girl, hidden in her clothes
and forgotten until it rolls to her mother’s floor
and has to be explained, and cannot be.
‘Catullus 65', from Dog (Auckland University Press, 2002), © C K Stead 2002, used by permission of the author.
Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004.