After Tagore

Wool Highways & Other Poems

Poems of New Zealand
Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award
from the Poetry Society of America,
published by Helicon Nine Editions

"Very few poets give one such an authentic sense of lived life as David Ray, and he can be intensely personal without indulging in narcissism. In this new collection he shares with us his experience of a landscape exotic in much of its flora and fauna yet sometimes resembling English downland, and of a culture familiar in its language and some of its immigrant history, yet different in so many ways—'England imagined.' ...But all is seen through the individual lens of Ray's acute consciousness of the terrors and anguish of current history."                                  

—Denise Levertov

Wool Highways

"What impertinence! I wonder how you'd like it if I were
to cut a slice out of you, you creature!"
—Through the Looking Glass

If I were a lamb or even a goat I'd object
to the very existence of cities like Christchurch
or Queenstown, a thousand shopkeepers waiting
for the next shipment—truck or railcar stacked high
with my own wool baled like inert cotton--and not
only that but my skin, trying to interest anyone
who has a bed to lie down on to cover his moldy mattress
with me. And car seats—there's not one set front and back
that can't take half my family--my children,
for padding their rumps while they head up mountain,
sightseeing mostly, maybe to see me. They'll pay
to see shearing, pay to see dogs nip at our heels,
pay to see dagging. And for meals they want
slices of us in our own fat, sliding in gravy,
not even good for them. And a shroud of piecrust
atop us! Wool covers for golf clubs, our task
to warm ice-cold steel. And they can't wait
to weave us or knit us, exploit us to keep warm.
In short, I'd hate to be sheep, hate to be goats,
milk of our mothers turned into cheese, leg
sold for mutton, tables adorned with roast us
with mint sauce. Next they'll pave highways
with us, good job for export,
wool highways all over the world.

Contents of this website © David Ray 2011