across those borders where only teachers travel


Bill Manhire

Children are building their teacher a coffin.
There it is in the paper, somewhere in Holland,

a good plain coffin made of many parts,
and two of the children

call each day and talk to the teacher
to keep the teacher posted. Is she happy?

She is ill but quite contented.
What will they give her to take with her

into the earth at last, or across those borders
where only teachers travel? There is dark energy there

and multiplication tables, and many children are in a room
with chisels and planes and spirit levels.

They must be making something wonderful.
Everything needs to be straight.

I made a boat, a tie-rack, a wooden spoon.
The boat sat on a mantlepiece in several different houses.

It was happy with its yellow funnel,
somewhere it is sailing. And everywhere children are waving and working hard.
They are building their teacher a coffin.

I first discover Bill Manhire’s writing when I visited New Zealand last year. He is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer, and has won several New Zealand Book Awards, a number of significant fellowships, and he was the 1997/1998 New Zealand Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate. Manhire was also honored with the 2007 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement. Manhire is the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, centre for Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has coordinated several bestselling anthologies, and his poetry and fiction is published in New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. His most recent poetry collection is Some Things to Place in a Coffin (Victoria University Press, 2017).


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