The Situation: Ruth Arnison

The Situation 2021

Tēnā koutou katoa

‘The Situation 2021’ is a continuation of ‘The Situation 2020’. A kind of Poet Laureate's Choice of work from Aotearoa New Zealand poets for the Poet Laureate blog. Essentially, it will be a portfolio of poetry, posted over the next while, from a range of poets whose work I have enjoyed reading recently: interesting poems for interesting times.

David Eggleton

Silent lyrics

If I could sing you a love song I’d voice

not one word,


but play a tune over your lips with mine,

whisper a chorus of breaths in your ears.


If I could sing you a love song you’d hear

every caress in my silence,


fingertips outlining your face with a hum,

lips crooning over the creases on your brow.


If I could sing you a love song I’d tell you

without sounding a note,


toes entwining in a melody of moments,

fingers gentling in harmony with yours.


If I could sing you a love song I’d murmur

not one bar,


but scale your body with a rhythmic touch

signing these lyrics.

Ruth Arnison

Driving to Wanaka’s Festival of Colour

Roadside cabbage trees stand like costumed Polynesian performers

while pylons, hands on hips, feet wide apart, await their zumba class.


The Manuka Gorge bends and snakes between shadow and light.

When we meet, slippery when frosty, next 5km, we slow down,

nervous skaters new to the rink.


A passing truck tattoos the windscreen with gravel, luckily it’s not

a full piercing. Not so lucky is the April-dead hawk, feathers stark

against the tarmac.


Approaching Lawrence a relocated house looks dislocated, stranded

mid muddy paddock, base boards torn away exposing beehive piles.

Sheep gather shade from rusted off-road abandoned stock trucks.


Sacks of farm gate sales - pinecones, kindling and horse poo – slouch

against disused school bus shelters. I’m given the ‘don’t even ask’ look

as he notes my eyes stalling on the compost possibilities.


Nearing Roxburgh, gorse descends on discarded orchards. Fleecy clouds staple

the sky and sheep yards, patiently waiting to go metric, stand empty. The hills

contort and crease with rocks balancing like tipsy macarons.


Max’s recomposed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons carries us onward, bypassing

Cromwell where two years of my life lie drowned beneath Lake Dunstan.


Now the hills are honey coloured and paddocks shorn of sheep. Fat hay bales,

stacked like ripening cheeses. Wanaka beckons, enticing us onwards

with further performances.

Ruth Arnison

Ruth Arnison biography

Ruth Arnison is the afternoon Administrator at Knox College — a student residential college in Dunedin. Her poems have been published in literary journals, anthologies, and ezines in NZ, Australia, the UK and US. She has curated five PoARTry exhibitions in Dunedin with the sixth one, Tools of the Trade, taking place at Mercy Hospital, Dunedin, in March. She’s the editor of Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ), the instigator of Lilliput Libraries, and supplies Dunedin cafes/businesses with free Pocket Poetry cards. Her passion is to take poetry out of books and into neighbourhoods, schools and playgrounds.  With her “step sister’ Sheryl she is responsible for the Poems on Steps project around Dunedin. 

Ruth Arnison. Image provided.