Tag Archives: Tim Upperton; New Zealand Poetry; poetic form; Tuesday Poem

Tuesday Poem: The Starlings

Today’s poem was written by my colleague, the New Zealand poet Tim Upperton. It’s a great example of facility with form. I also admire it as a poem that is about birds without really being at all about birds. It is from his collection A House on Fire (Steele Roberts, 2009) and can also be found in the  Best New Zealand Poems 2009:

 Tim Upperton/The Starlings

Anger sang in that house until the scrim walls thrummed.
The clamour rang the window panes, dizzying up chimneys.
Get on, get on, the wide rooms cried, until it seemed our unease
as we passed on the stairs or chewed our meals in dimmed

light were all an attending to that voice. And so we got on,
and to muffle that sound we gibbed and plastered, built
shelves for all our good books. What we sometimes felt
is hard to say. We replaced what we thought was rotten.

I remember the starlings, the pair that returned to that gap
above the purple hydrangeas, between weatherboard and eaves.
The same birds, we thought, not knowing how long a starling lives.
For twenty years they came and went, flit and pause and up

into that hidden place. A dry rustle at night, fidgeting, calling,
a murmuration: bird business. The vastness and splendour
of their piecemeal activity, their lives’ long labour,
we discovered at last; blinking, in the murk of the ceiling,

at that whole cavernous space filled, stuffed like a haybarn.
It was like gold, except it was more like shit and straw,
jumbled with their own young, dead, desiccated, sinew
and bone, fledgling and newborn. Starlings only learn

 a little thing, made big from not knowing when to leave off:
gone past all need except need, enough never enough.

If you’re interested, you can read more about Tim and read some of his other poems. You can also read an interview with Tim by the writer Tim Jones.