The Situation: Alan Roddick

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

The End of a Road

‘Mount Royal Road’ and ‘Pleasant Valley’ were names
that spoke for years of a ‘sweet, especial scene’ –

but something had gone wrong, the road-sign drooping
as if the name were too much for it – and yet 

below Mount Royal that road still strolled away
past grazing cattle under English oaks,

across the Pleasant River, and out of sight.
The map showed where it passed the farmhouse gate

to turn toward the hills – and suddenly,
among shaven slopes, stumps, hillocks of slash,

it was nothing but a pot-holed access road
for the forestry plantations far inland, 

with its maunga, Mount Royal, long out of sight.
When a road loses its name, where does it go?  

I can see it now, as it makes its way back
down to the valley floor to pass that farmhouse,

rumbling over the bridge, under the willows,
through those paddocks, to where, below Mount Royal,

a new signpost announces ‘Stenhouse Road’.
And right there Mount Royal Road ended.

— Alan Roddick


The Mystery 

To put together two metal components
made for each other, one of them being ‘male’
that must be ‘offered’ properly to the ‘female’: 

a wealth of metaphor in those terms, and yet 
the simple task is to screw them together
with maybe six turns, to make a garden tap.  

My first attempt puts the spout at nine o’clock,  
the tap-handle at three (one more metaphor).
Dismantling it for a second try, this time

perhaps I should start them off the wrong way up,
hoping they’re right-way-up some six turns later?
But no, the spout’s at one, the handle hiding;

upside-down at seven. Too many failures,
and that’s why I’m waiting here, expectantly,
to watch as a real plumber wraps his hemp 

clockwise round the thread, then fits them together
to tighten, maybe five or six rotations,
seating the spout at twelve! The handle at six! 

Unconcerned, he applies his wrench to the thing
with careful force to urge it one more half-turn
and give us a garden tap, the right way up.

As he turns on our toby to check for leaks
I wonder how to make use of what I’ve learned –
that it’s not where to start, but how to finish?

 — Alan Roddick

Alan Roddick biography

Alan Roddick has published two collections of poems and is working on a third. As Charles Brasch’s literary executor for nearly fifty years, he has edited three collections of Brasch’s poems. He has also published a monograph and articles on the poetry of Allen Curnow. A retired public health dentist, he lives in Dunedin.

Alan Roddick. Image by Jill Milne.

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