National Poetry Day Poem – Stranded in Paradise, by Helen Rickerby

Stranded in paradise

When we hit tarseal again
I feel like the island
had tipped up
to send us rolling down-
hill heading for home

but not even halfway
between the end of the earth and Kaitaia
we hear a noise
and a clunk, and a hiss 

We stop to check 

It’s flat 

Up ahead are houses
Cars rush past like flies
We trudge along the verge 

The sun has already melted the tar
my Paihia jandals already ruined 

Intimidated by the large white house
we try the neighbours
with the cars and the dogs
‘No landline,’ they say, ‘try the white house’ 

The white house peers down from its hill
the driveway is two lines
of white stones 

I let you go first 

They don’t ask us into the house
but bring the phone out
They tell us they once visitedWellington
like another country, this mythic south 

We phone the AA and return to our car
I am homesick
for the first time

In the hours we spend waiting
the sun climbs higher and hotter 

We sit in the car, there is nowhere else
each passing vehicle shakes us with jealousy

When the AA man comes
pulled from his family, pulled from Kaitaia
we pretend to not be embarrassed
that we can’t fix it ourselves

City folk, we can’t help it


“Stranded in Paradise” is from Helen Rickerby’s sequence of poems Heading North, published in handbound volumes by Otago publisher Kilmog Press.  It’s a beautiful book, inside and out.  The poems follow a couple travelling up the North Island to Cape Reinga and back – part road trip, part love story, with the presence of a bovine goddess in the background.  In this poem, I especially like the idea of the island tipping people up and rolling them home again.

Helen Rickerby is the author of two other collections of poetry: Abstract Internal Furniture (2001) and My Iron Spine (2008) (both with HeadworX).  She is also co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine and runs Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher. Helen lives in Wellington, works as a web editor and blogs at Winged Ink.

Happy Poetry Day, everyone!  There are more poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s