Monday, April 9, 2012

Tuesday Poem - The Silence by C.K. Stead

                                                                     Karl in Genoa

The Silence

The dead we know are gone except
when dreams return them. So it was
Frank Sargeson took me aside

in Hell and said, ‘You know, my friend,
how well the wind among the reeds
is used by shaman and guru,

rabbi and priest.’ He had the face
of Dante’s much-loved preceptor
Brunetto Latini among

the sodomites, as we ambled
down the avenues of the damned;
and he, brushing ash from his sleeve

went on, ‘Those with a patch of earth
and running water lack vision,
preferring to leave such mysteries

‘to desert-and mountain-dwellers
and the poor of Varanasi.
Where little is lacking listen

‘always to the silence until
you hear it whisper its name.’ So
he faded into fire, and I,

half-waking, wrote to remember
all that he’d said—and listened for
the silence, and could not hear it.

This poem by New Zealand writer C.K. Stead was short listed for the recent Montreal Prize.
Below is a link to a site which lists most – if not all – of his writing achievements, there are too many of them for me to go into. I bumped into Karl at the Genoa Poetry Festival a few years back and every so often we get in touch. I very much liked his poem – Into Extra Time – which was in Best NZ Poems 2007 and emailed him to tell him so. And he emailed me a note of congratulation when my book This City won the Kathleen Grattan Award. He lives in NZ but he does get around a bit. One could bump into him almost anywhere.


  1. Really enjoyed this amble with Stead and Sargeson - so haunting. I love C.K. Stead's poetry, Jennifer, so thanks for posting. Great fare for a Tuesday :)

  2. I love the gentle humour of this poem...Sargeson brushing ash from his sleeve...also the suggestion that those with what they need 'lack vision.' Many depths to be plumbed here. Thankyou.

  3. Love it. I know that feeling of the dead coming alive again when you dream them. My favourite lines of this I think are the nonchalance of 'So it was/Frank Sargeson took me aside//
    in Hell'.

    I feel one could also bump into you almost anywhere, but usually on Cuba Street.

  4. This is wonderful. Light and fun with a touch of serious in the surreal. I love this description:

    He had the face
    of Dante’s much-loved preceptor
    Brunetto Latini among

    the sodomites, as we ambled
    down the avenues of the damned

    Very glad I stopped in here today. Thanks for posting this one.

  5. "So he faded into fire" I luv this line

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