Tuesday Poem: Stones


Here, standing on the beach, is Dad.
Beach? It’s Riverton, rocks and gravel
from the tarmac to the grey sea’s edge.

Black and white. He holds an oblate stone
scoured out from the distant Alps
milled and rolled by frigid water.

He holds it poised for skimming. Out
it will arc, skip, skip, to fall
and sink for half a fathom.

I snapped him with my old Box Brownie. His eyes
look far beyond the frame I gave him.
Shadowed from the sun, impassive,
they are skipping over the years,
walking the waves to England.

Tim says:

“Stones” was published in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002).

It’s one of the poems I’m planning to read at the Ballroom Cafe, Newtown, Wellington, on this coming Sunday, the 17th – the session runs from 4-6pm. I’m going to read a mixture of oldies and newies. If you’re in the appropriate hemisphere, I hope you’ll be able to make it along!

Check out all the details here, and check out all the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem blog.

Tuesday Poem: North


On Ilkley Moor
I parked me red
Ford Laser hatchback
and gazed to the north.
Rain and smoke stood over Wharfedale.

It was all in its appointed place:
stone houses and stone smiles in Ilkley
the wind on the bleak
insalubrious bracken.

I was waiting for memory
to make the scene complete:
some flat-vowelled voice out of childhood
snatches of Northern song.

For memory read TV:
Tha’ve broken tha poor Mother’s heart
It were only a bit of fun.
Bowl slower and hit bloody stumps.

Tha’ll never amount to much, lad. In cloth cap and gaiters,
car forgotten, I pedal down the hill. Hurry oop
or tha’ll be late for mill. Folk say
I’ve been seeing the young widow Cleghorn.
Well, now, fancy that.

In my invented character
I trail my falsified heritage
down the long, consoling streets.

Tim says:I was born in Cleethorpes, near Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, UK (just south of Yorkshire) and my family moved to New Zealand when I was two.

I returned to the UK in 1989, when I was 30, and spent much of my time there in Grimsby and points north. It was hard not to wonder what my life would have been like if my family had remained “oop North”. TV shows such as Brass provided invaluable guidance.

“North” was published in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002).

Boat People is my first poetry collection. It was published in 2002 by HeadworX, the year after my first short fiction collection, Extreme Weather Events. There are forty poems in Boat People.

Copies of Boat People are available directly from me at the cheap, cheap price of NZ $5.00 plus postage and packing. Please email me at senjmito@gmail.com if you’d like one.

Check out the Tuesday Poem blog for all the Tuesday Poems.

Men Briefly Explained

Men Briefly Explained is the working title of the poetry collection I’m currently putting together – which, when published, will be my third collection, after Boat People (2001) and All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens (2007). The poems in it are all about men in some way, even those that aren’t.

My long-haul task at the moment is to take the manuscript of the novel I completed drafting over the Christmas holidays and polish the rough edges off it so that it glows like a bridesmaid’s dress. Though with less ruffles.

But in other nooks and crannies of my life, I’m wrangling the poetry collection into shape. I now have all – or nearly all – the poems I plan to include, some still in rough draft form, others finished, or as near to finished as poems ever get. The tough part is to organise them to best advantage. Should there be four sections, or three? Which section is it best to start with?

The poems in All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens mainly date from the period 2001-2005. Some of the poems in the new collection have been with me since before ABKG was published, while others are a few weeks old. I need to make sure that I’m equally comfortable with all of them; I need to finalise the newer poems and send them out into the world in a brief adolescence, to see whether they can find homes as individual poems before I call them back home; and I need to make those final decisions about what goes where.

All that may take a while – and then there is the little matter of getting the collection published – but I am hopeful that, should you or someone you know require a brief explanation of men, one will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.

As a taster, here is one of the poems I plan to include. It was published in the first issue of Enamel magazine, and some more of the poems to be included in Men Briefly Explained will be appearing in the second issue.

The Penciller

She stares up through the ceiling,
sees your hand descend.
You trace the outline of her lover:
the commander, disheartened,
has started sleeping with her troops again.

You draw the beloved form, face
now spent with sex and sweat. You want to add
what you can never have: a few curved lines,
a niche of hair. But she’s too strong.
She tugs the sheet above her breasts.

Rebuffed, you pencil in the floor.
Bras, panties, a discarded teddy: night
of passion and disorder. The two of them curved together
like spoons, like swords, like last night’s impulse
surviving into morning.

Boat People, my first poetry collection

Boat People is my first poetry collection. It was published in 2002 by HeadworX, the year after my first short fiction collection, Extreme Weather Events. There are forty poems in Boat People. The book is divided into four sections. As the HeadworX publicity blurb says:

“Boat People” is in four sections. The first is inspired by the poet’s childhood in Southland and adolescence in Otago. The second focuses on the Wellington region, and includes poems about the poet’s experiences of fatherhood. Section III takes in Russia – Tim Jones speaks Russian and has a longstanding interest in the country – while Section IV journeys to the alternate world of time and space also depicted in “Extreme Weather Events”.

A number of poems from Boat People dealing with parenting have already been posted on this blog. Here’s one more poem from Boat People, a personal favourite.


A hard day’s plotting gives a man a thirst.
For Lenin, it’s something dark and strong,
a Black Mac for his blackest moods
Trotsky can’t decide: maybe an Export
maybe something brewed with ice.

“V. I. -“
“Wait on, Leon, just the dregs to go.” A pause,
the glug and swish of beer. “Aaah. That’s better.
You were saying?”

Trotsky looks up, face serious
above a thin moustache of foam. “V. I.,
why don’t we just take over?
The Tsar could never stop us. He’s
still chugging Lion Red from cans.”

It’s settled. Trotsky will inspire the workers
Lenin will fuel the revolution
with crates of Lowenbrau
smuggled in from Zurich by sealed train

Drink deep, Leon. Bottoms up, Vladimir Illyich.
Life will never look this simple or this clear again.

Boat People got some good reviews and I usually read a selection of poems from it when I do poetry readings. If you’d like a copy, you can order it from me for $5 plus postage & packing (in NZ, p&p will be $2, making a grand total of $7 for the book. I’ll need to work out the postage & packing for other territories). Please send an email to senjmito@gmail.com saying you’d like a copy, and we’ll take it from there.

UPDATE: One of the poems in Boat People, “Fallen”, is appearing in Wildes Licht, ed Dieter Riemenschneider, an anthology of New Zealand poetry translated into German. It should be coming out in October.

More Poems on Being a Parent

Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood

My son turns 12 soon. That, and the recent publication of Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood, Emma Neale’s anthology of parenting poems, made me want to put up some of the poems I wrote while he was growing up. (My poem “Coverage” in Swings and Roundabouts is about an imagined father.). So here are four such poems, written from 1996 to 2002.

Publication note: “The Weather”, “At the Gate” and “Action Man Is Sleeping” appear in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002). Copies are available from me – please email timjones (at) actrix.co.nz for more information, or see my website orders page.

“Elfland” appears in my second collection, All Blacks Kitchen Gardens (which you can buy online), published in 2007.

The Weather

The weather is a matter of cultural safety
for us white Englishmen.

I talk about it with my father:
it’s fine up here, Dad, not a breath of wind
(so rare for Wellington)
how’s it with you?

Cloudy, he replies, and raining
wind from the south-west
I can’t get the garden done.
In his voice is the gloomy assurance
that more is on the way.

I talk about it with the barber.
We agree it’s
not such a bad day
for this time of the year.

We’re talking the prices of houses.
I tell him I’ll be a father come June.
I don’t tell him, the child will be born in winter
as the wind and the rain prowl outside.

I don’t tell him, we will carry the infant
back to our wooden house
shaken by the gale.

I do say, I’ll have to check the gutters
come spring.

At the Gate

This morning
at the kindergarten gate
my son said “You stop there!”

He didn’t want me to come in
He would place his bag
on Hook 22
put his nametag on the chart
go in to mat-time by himself

He opened the gate, turned, and waved goodbye
I waved back proudly
and started down the path
close to tears

He was so tiny once
that I could hold him in the palm of one hand
He starts school in two weeks’ time
His bag will fill with books
his heart with other friends.
Smiling and crying, I take the long road home.

Action Man Is Sleeping

Action Man is sleeping
wearing his yellow bobble hat
(taken from a fluffy bunny who won’t be needing it again)
blue underpants which keep him rated G
and two cloth nappies which serve him well as sheets.

His bed is a wheeled wooden trolley.
My son, who’s sleeping too, said Action Man should have
a bed with legs, like him — but Action Man
must always be ready for action
even in his jut-jawed dreams.

He (my son, that is — I wouldn’t
want you to get confused) has decided
he should not be kissed or hugged.
“Not by you — not by anyone!”
We blamed Action Man at first

but now the boy’s relented —
he can kiss us
we just can’t kiss him.


Outside, the world is growing darker
counters clicking downwards to perdition.

Inside, the children bring me
cup-cakes, pizza, new and better clothes

all made from pure cheek
and six-year-old imagination.

I’m story-writing helper for today.
It’s not too hard:

“What’s that word? Let’s sound it out.”
“Nothing to write about? Let’s see …

what will you do tomorrow? What
would you rather do today?”

At the end we’re smiling: a whole page written!
Teacher, give these children praise.

As they start on Printing
I’m taking my leave, walking

out of the enchanted wood
back to the world’s long darkness.