Tuesday Poem-How Do You Know

How do you know

when it’s cold outside

if you are snug within.

Is there dew still

on window panes.

Or are the shadows


Is the sand wet

way above the tide

and the sky

pale in the water.

Have the leaves

left the trees.

And do the woolly sheep


Do the cows

stand in mud

amid the blunted grass.

Is the scrub

made flat by snow

while frost waits

in the shade.

Or is it when the light outside

says five

and yet the clock

chimes three.

(c) Helen McKinlay

I was travelling on a bus in Otago. It was very cold outside but the bus was heated. I started thinking about how it was I knew it was cold outside apart from the fact that I had felt it.  After a lot of thinking I wrote the above. I decided not to use question marks as they are such a distraction.

This poem was first published in ‘ Splash’, Airing Cupboard Women’s Poetry group’s 2009 anthology. (Christchurch).

Please return to the Tuesday Poem Blog and revel in the variety of poems . http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

8 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem-How Do You Know”

  1. Good questions to put to your reader. Interesting to read how this poem got started, too. I agree about the punctuation — question marks being distracting — but I wonder, too, if it might work just as well with no punctuation at all, but with stanzas separating each question. Just a thought. Not sure how it’d look on the page, but it might be an experiment… as these are all questions that blend together and run into each other in some way, so eliminating the full stop might allow the reader more flow… maybe?

    1. Thanks for your input Michelle. Funny thing is it never had punctuation before and I thought perhaps it would make it easier for the reader so put some in! As for the stanzas it is meant to have them but I have this wee battle with WordPress. And sometimes I let it have its way. I shall try again shortly. 🙂

  2. I always feel cheated in winter. Cheated by the sun, who becomes a slacker, and finishes work too early. Canberra and New Zealand have a lot in common in terms of cold, it seems. I enjoyed this Helen. Personally, I quite like question marks, with their curves and dots.

  3. I found it so interesting that you didn’t use question marks. I kept reading and thinking, where are they? Thwarting my anticipation made me focus on what was being said in greater depth, though. Very very clever to get the reader so involved concerning such a simple thing as the question mark – wonderful!

  4. Hi Elizabeth.
    it’s rather nice that people have talked about the question mark. It just happened however. When it was first published the title had a question mark ant there was no punctuation in the poem.
    I asked myself?? why did I do that? It seemed more honest to leave that one out too.
    I wonder would people have noticed if I had said nothing?
    However I do find punctuation in poetry distracting. In the end, one has to decide whether the line breaks are sufficient and if the reader needs that guidance or not……:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.