Tuesday Poem: tell your mama by Michele Leggott

Sunday, 14th November, 2010

Mirabile Dictu by Michele Leggott

tell your mama


it's the third of March   your birthday

and you would be seventy nine   my sister

wishes you were around to talk about

making mouths work   oromotor dyspraxia

in the beautiful language of clinicians

I see the little horse projected

in the stairwell by strong morning light

the equinox is on its way

mama we miss you   twenty five years

motor out of our mouths   yes

five foot four and shrinking   we'd like

to have had those years those jokes

those tickings off   the light has shifted

on its bearings   birds eat the figs

apples fall from the trees

let me tell you about the sky-blue stick

whose stories have just begun


Te Kikorangi we could call it

almost as good as the blue from Kapiti

we eat when the good times roll

pick it up and the weight of the sky

but also its cool panorama

communicate in a nano that sends

your fingers to find the silver collars

the white on blue smile of magnolias

traced out in reverse   and the circlet

hammered with tiny nails by the silversmith

who wanted to leave them proud   fire seeds

talking back to the birds in the trees


and I would know you   looking up

from the page   by the feel of you

blue chalk going down on the pavement

as the skies open   if I were blind

not a white stick but a sky mama

a pole of wind for the child

waving wildly about in the tree


I open the window after the storm

that washed away the chalkers' poems

almost as they were written   white on blue

the sky smiles again   the stick unscrews

in four pieces   it is a pool cue mama

looking for a good time to come

its stories are at work in our mouths

as the birds fly up in a white spray

that begins their autumn migrations



The inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate (2008-9) Michele Leggott MNZM is an awardwinning poet and literary scholar. Born in Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand, in 1956, she now lives on Auckland’s North Shore with her family and is a Professor of English at The University of Auckland and the founding Director of the new zealand electronic poetry centre.

She has represented New Zealand at festivals in Portugal, Berlin and South Africa and ran the nzepc trans Tasman symposium of poetics in 2010 - ‘Home & Away'.

tell your mama is from Michele's latest collection Mirabile Dictu (AUP), which came out of her term as the first New Zealand Poet Laureate.

Paula Green (in the NZ Herald) said of the collection:

As she moves through time and place, Leggott carries two sticks: a white stick to guide her failing eyes and the laureate gift, a blue tokotoko (Te Kihorangi) to act as her poetic guide...The collection reads as a glorious continuum with neither full stops to mark ends, nor capital letters to denote beginnings. It is as though we, too, can absorb the stumbles and the dark patches, the richness and the heavenly light.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Hub.



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I <3 <3 <3 this poem Helen.

What a beautiful poem. Thank you. Reminded me of my late Mum, I'm going to get it out and read it again on Mother's Day 2011.

'... as though we, too, can absorb the stumbles and the dark patches, the richness and the heavenly light....' Paula's right - I love the whole collection for this reason - thanks Helen