‘You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet’. Franz Kafka

Below are some fairly random samples of my writing.

(Go  HERE : From Camera To Pentameter – Poems for Pics and Pics for Poems  to read more of my poetry ).

weather with a mind of its own

Here in this cornered room, a wooden fruit bowl and a bloodstone jasper stained with blood drops discovered at the foot of the cross, overhead a ragged skyline growing dark and darker still each dragged breath a reminder of hawks seeking road kill, of ice caps plumping feathered seas. Of weather with a mind of its own.






many moons ago, Maurice

If there were photos I never kept them
hating the way I looked; glasses, flat-chested,
my hair specially ‘done’ for the occasion, teased
too high, stinking of hair-spray and set hard
as concrete. I wish I still had the photos,

the dress too with its purple
daisies on black, a simple cotton dress
with puff sleeves that Mum sewed for me
(with love I see now but not at the time

wishing it looked more like a ball gown,
an expensive satin maybe; electric-blue
or champagne-pink, with lace). Many moons
ago, Maurice asked me
and I was too polite to say No,

even though I’d have preferred
to partner someone else
who shall remain nameless.
Long-legged, a loping mountain-goat
fellow-Hokonui-Tramping Club-tramper,

Maurice had no idea how to dance
and in the Highland Scotische, flung me
like a rag doll, my feet flying off the floor.
But it was a long, long time ago
and I now know

what I didn’t know then,
that the things we despise
when young can in fact be beautiful,
coming back later to haunt;
memories laced with grief.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

K sepia






somewhere between

First my siblings, then my kids,
have down the years always laughed
at photos of me in the glasses
I wore back then, when myopia
offered me an excuse
to look out with black-cat’s eyes

at a world whose only promise was,

‘Girls in glasses don’t get passes’.

When my granddaughter finds the photo
of me at the same age she is now,
she calls my glasses cool.
I look like a comic-book character,
she says. Which I am assured
by her mother,  is a compliment.

I have become a cool teen
at last but way too late.

I too look at the photo and the only comic-book boldness
I find is in the black-framed glasses.

My expression is diffident
with a mouth wavering
somewhere between laughing
and crying.

Behind glass that reflects the world

in front, my eyes wait

for the confirmation
they cannot believe will ever come.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

by the water lilies







Photo taken in Bordeaux, France, 1978

In this photo, water-lilies,
over and over again,
holding summer on a plate
before being declared null and void,
drying into winter’s thin, brown death.
Taken when I was young,
it is me watching out for a future
that was never as far away as I thought

always arriving as it did this morning
when like a faith healer
my granddaughter reached out
to spent flowers, softly
fingering the petals and I reassured her
that they will come back to life again
in the spring and she told me I was beautiful
and I told her she was too.

Kay McKenzie Cooke








Deer-Park Deer; Gore

On wood-turned, coffee table legs
the silent young deer stands, sleek
and wanting for nothing in a world
as groomed as a bowling green.
It is thinking, nothing surprises me.
Even the sudden flap of a picnic rug
would not cause it to shy away.
Without keeness, it waits to see

if I will offer it food. It is a bored teenager
listening to old music, blank to any history.
Its eyes are deep dark pools
of disdain without fear.
It does not know that once there were forests
as deep as an intergallactic map, as wild
as whole oceans. It is not afraid.
Neither is it astonished.

Kay McKenzie Cooke








power line

‘singing in the wire’ 

(* a line from the song, ‘Wichita Lineman’ written by Jimmy Webb and sung by Glen Campbell) This poem is in my third poetry book, ‘Born To A Red-Headed Woman’.


The song is a clutch of mailboxes

at the end of an undulating road,

an unsteady stack of bee-hives

beside poplars.

The song is the whine from a transformer.

The song is a white bridge,

crickets, roadside grass sapped dry

through a summer that just will not let up.

The song is a power pole’s pale-brown

ceramic cup receiving a direct hit.

It is a clod flung by my brother.

It is looped bars laid

against the white paper of a gravel road.

Released the month my father died

the song can still bring me the valley

where we lived that year,

still bring me the sound of mourning,

of wind through wire, of the loneliness

of country roadside verges,

but in the end, the song does not deliver.

You can ask too much of a song.

After all, it is just a song.

Kay McKenzie Cooke


Gore library







‘Immigrant Song’ *

And there was always the library,

the rustling insides

of its deep-red brick,

the smell of ink and old sellotape;

its confinement

oddly comforting

On the way home

one of my sisters would read while she walked,

only looking up to cross the road.

We’d cut through the Gardens,

where the caged kea called,

its keening clearer at night

when alienation is especially felt,

as if the kea expressed the same ache

we felt, of sudden transplantation

from wild green; the orange flame

of under-wing feathers

closed-up behind cold wire. 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

*Immigrant Song: Title of Led Zeppelin song. (On an LP I played many times at this time of my life – in my bedroom at 27 Devon Street, Gore.  The house no longer exists, replaced by ownership flats. The L.P. still exists. It was sent to me by a penfriend – a generous Californian teenager by the name of Ross Armitage. I would never have listened to Led Zep. of my own volition , so thank you Ross, Postmaster’s son** from Santa Maria – or wherever you are now – for encouraging me to listen to music other than Pop and Country & Western.)

** Ross became my penfriend when in 1969 I wrote c/- Post Office, Santa Maria, California – the old drawing pin on the world map trick –  asking for a penfriend!! and the Postmaster handed the letter on to his son.







They showed us pictures
of their new house that sits
like a friendly deerstalkers’
clubroom making a plain statement
about coming home
to a house in the middle of a paddock
surrounded by golden grass.

She said it will have no roses,
just vegetables and maybe clover
for the bees. He said he’d recently read
a Baxter poem about Queenstown
with Lake Wakatipu as a blue eye
and the moon taking a photograph
of the mountains.

Kay McKenzie Cooke








Trafalgar Square, London, 1977

Waiting between the paws

of a large bronze lion

for the photo to be taken,

for some indication

that I was free now to move

on a cold winter’s day;

November, December,

maybe February;

a long way from home

and my head thumping

with the red roar

of Picadilly’s double-deckers,

but certainly with no thought

for the flicking fingers

and sighs

of my great-aunts in 1870

with aching shoulders

in a milliner’s shop

near to where I sat,

or for my great-grandfather

one hundred years ago,

perhaps to the day,

driving his hansom cab

past that very spot.

Today I see the stillness

and wariness

in the photo of me

waiting between the paws

of a large bronze lion

for the photo to be taken,

for some indication

that I was free now to move.

Kay McKenzie Cooke



the girls and the geese

(this is most likely to have happened sometime in the 1880’s)

The Hirst girls; the ones who in later photos
as grown women appear so stern,
always dressed in black
right up to their necks, secrets in their eyes;
once were in charge of the geese
that one day as they drove them along the beach,
ran off into the sea to float there,
stunned and daft, beyond reach.

The girls were forced to leave off their useless flapping
of arms and aprons and return home as darkness fell
and all through the night,
could hear the ghostly honking
of waves breaking like bad dreams of geese snatched
by an ocean without end, or washing up
in the morning, dead with twisted necks
and beaks half-opened in horror.

Worse than that, less for the larder and all their fault.
Then dawn, the scream of birds waking the sky alive
with hands flying in delight at the miracle,
the geese back on the beach,
their offended clatter no dream but real,
as real as us today walking the same sand,
but so faintly etched upon this world
it would appear that we are the ghosts.

Kay McKenzie Cooke