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Celebrating Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2019

The School of Naps

By Erik Kennedy

A nap on the farm was as common as a two-headed sheep.
This is why Meredith never learned to nap.
I, on the other hand, was encouraged to dream whenever
I wanted. In naps or in nap-like afternoons I smothered
in imagination. An only child is the parent of its parents,
a dictator with a small bedroom. I guess they had coherence,
those days in the close suburban yards and modest shrubberies
when I imposed my will on my impractical, summery
family. I’ve always had trouble getting things done since.
I seem to be walking along a floor mounted on springs.
When you’re happy you have a responsibility to those who are unhappy
to do your best with it. Even if it ends badly.
Most of my choices are bad and good interspersed,
like wearing a motorcycle helmet while riding a horse.

A rise of starlings

By Helen Heath

Orion loosens his belt
in our own night sky. You
have drawn new maps
across the darkness, through
wild celestial fields, tracing
messages to me in particles
of dust and light. You never
lived with restraint, so
the gentle artfulness with
which you left gave fresh
freight to my heart, lending
my gait a new lopsidedness.
I am a rise of starlings,
can you catch me in your coat?
This way of leaving aches,
this black night, into which
I must send you out in the longboat
of your body, seems endless.

Watching the Boys Play Rugby

By Tayi Tibble

like flies swarming
in black tidal pools or

a milky way of sluts in short
shorts and long socks, Catholic

schoolboys teasing each other
in the scrum. Bull-headed matadors

depending on the score. The music
of bones in their noses all smashed

and spitty like pop rock candy.
Make a pit-stop at the dairy,

buy a scoop of chips to throw
at the seagulls who can’t be scared off,

red-eyed demons watching
the boys play rugby. Eat too much or

not enough. Throats dry but mouths
open and over-glossed

when the game is over, and the boys
come orbiting the car

with pale moon faces, either
luminous or crumbling.


By Therese Lloyd

I dreamt about Eddie Vedder
again last night—
this morning, my God, such a spring in my step!
Eddie and I went for a walk down the beach
the tide was out
and although I can’t be certain
I think we were in an earthly paradise
He sang to me and I listened and smiled
I was 16 and my 41 year old knees
did nothing but bend as they should
and the beach didn’t end
and the vortex became visible as a solid
and I sidestepped it
and viewed it from every angle
and the stroke forming in my brain
turned into an ampersand
& Eddie and I are still walking

A rise of starlings is from the collection Are Friends Electric?, which won the Peter and Mary Biggs Poetry Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards 2019. The other poems are from collections that were shortlisted for the prize.

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is August 23 and will feature 150 activities throughout New Zealand in a programme of poetry slams and rap, open-mic and spoken word performances, pop-up events, book launches and readings.