Tuesday Poem – Island Farewell by Mary Cresswell


Only three
of us are still here
We have no words in
common — for living,
drowning, not even

The sandspit
went first, breaking up
palm trees, coconuts
thatched roofs and babies
bobbed alongside man-
grove pods

Vapour trails
melt into long clouds
Their crisp beginnings
chatter coordinates
to stars with no words
for us

I’m delighted to be posting this poem, from Mary Cresswell’s new collection, Trace Fossils, published by Steele Roberts.   The manuscript of Trace Fossils was chosen by Fleur Adcock as first runner-up for the University of Otago’s inaugural Kathleen Grattan Award.  

The poems are organised in 4 sections: The age of trees, Changing sea levels, Cloud and The age of salt.  It’s a great book, full of vivid images and wordplay, with interesting use of formal structures – the poem above is in counted syllables, each stanza following the same syllabic pattern. 

In her introduction to the book, Mary explains that “A trace fossil is visible fossil evidence – a footprint, trail, burrow, track or other impression – of the life activities of an animal, plant or other natural force.”

Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor, who lives on the Kapiti Coast.  She was born in Los Angeles and moved to New Zealand in 1970.  Her poetry has appeared in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals.  She is co-author of Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003) and author of the satirical collection Nearest and Dearest (Steele Roberts, 2009).   I interviewed Mary on this blog , as part of her virtual book tour, when Nearest and Dearest was released.  See also Tim Jones’ interview with Mary.

One comment

  1. I am reading “Trace Fossils” at the moment, and this is one of many wonderful poems in the book – I have just found another one that really jumped out at me, and which, with Mary’s permission, I hope to post as a Tuesday Poem myself.

    The compactness and elegance of Mary’s poems appeal to me, and “Island Farewell” is a very good example of that.

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