All my dear ones


Maybe it was the lone trout fisherman
I saw yesterday, as I drove over
the bridge, his fly-rod a thin wand, almost
invisible at dusk – all night I dreamed
of mayflies, swarming bright around my head
like a saint’s inconvenient halo.
The mayfly has no functioning mouthparts –
its plans are necessarily short-term.
From my bed I can make out my mother’s
old highback chair, the dim bookshelves, faceless
framed photographs, window, starlight. No moon.
Where did all my dear ones go, where are they
now. I’m not sure about the mouthparts, could
check it out online, but I feel better
not knowing. In the sleeping house I creep
downstairs and in the kitchen I thank God,
as I gulp down some cereal, I have
functioning mouthparts, and for my other
excellent parts I am also grateful,
and isn’t the mayfly’s dance, like this poem
I’m writing in the dark, a spell against
death? Not a very good spell, obviously.
Least profitable enterprise ever,
after poetry: mayfly life insurance.
Does the mayfly think like this? You can bet
as it swarms, as it mates, lays eggs and dies,
it’s thinking, How the fuck did I get here?
Why didn’t I just stay in the cool stream?
Nymph-life was so good! To eat and grow fat –
God, what I’d give to do that all again!
And now dawn comes, with its rosy fingers,
the house creaks and wakes, but I’m not finished!
Maybe the fallen mayfly thinks that, too,
its body a scribble writ in water.
I’m not finished! Its wings heavier now,
tiny, swaddled Ophelia. I’m finished.  



Tim Upperton’s second poetry collection, The Night We Ate The Baby (Haunui Press), was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016. His poems are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (Victoria University Press), Essential New Zealand Poems (Random House), Villanelles (Everyman), and Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (Dartmouth University Press).