Tuesday Poem – Sedition in the ranks – by Vincent 0’Sullivan

I married so long back it seems now

like a not too bad novel I read at that stage

rather than a life I couldn’t put down


too quickly. A niece came by yesterday

bearing flowers I happily tossed out.

She leaned across me with her hot perfume


like a cat waiting to pounce.

I’m clearly one of her good turns.

There’s a Home chaplain who talks chess


at me, seeing God’s a touch heavy

at tea-time on a morning when summer

smacks off the harbour. ‘The pornography


of light,’ I tell him, out of the blue.

He smiles like I’m a smartarse quoting Aquinas.

I want to say but don’t, ‘Has anyone


bothered to ask whether resurrection’s all

it’s cracked up for?’ You make your own fun

in a place like this. I’m popular here.


The night staff slip me an extra biscuit.

The old ducks quack when I pull their legs.

The carpenter who sports a tattoo no more


interesting than the name of a soccer team

on his forearm, who’s putting locks on the windows

of those who’d prefer to scarper, says


to me-nudge a cobber sort of thing-

‘You’re a wily old bugger.’ ‘Language,’

I say later to Matron, ‘I didn’t come here for that.’


This copyright of this poem is owned by Vincent O’Sullivan. It is here by his kind permission. He had just stepped off the plane home from Europe when he gave it, so thank you Vincent.  ‘Sedition in the ranks’ is from his most recent collection-The movie may be slightly different -Victoria University Press 2011. I really enjoy the gently obstreporous humour of the main character in this poem. He’s a survivor!

Vincent is one of New Zealand’s best known writers. His writing includes numerous volumes of poetry, two novels, collections of short stories and the biography of Alan Mulgan and he has also edited and /or co-edited various anthologies and collections including The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield. He has been widely published, nationally and internationally and his awards, residencies and fellowships, are many.

For more wonderful poetry go to Tuesday Poem .  Check out The Hub, edited this week  by Mary McCallum.

11 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – Sedition in the ranks – by Vincent 0’Sullivan

  1. I really like Vincent’s poems – have just spent a few days in his company in Europe for the Katherine Mansfield Conference – he is on good form! This is one I hadn’t read – thanks for posting it.

  2. This is new to me too. Wonderful quirky voice here. I especially like the middle part – the god/pornography of light/resurrection stanzas- and how the thought moves from those possibly ‘lofty’ topics to regular everyday things like biscuits and tattoos and names of soccer teams. I dig the irreverence in this poem.

  3. I really enjoy the play on irreverence in this poem too, Michelle. I haven’t read anything from Vincent for a LONG time so it’s exciting to see him here again. Thank you so much for sharing, Helen.

  4. The lightness of this is a lot of fun! I love the self-confident, boasting tone in the central section – ‘I’m popular here’ – made me chuckle. I haven’t read the new collection, so thank you for sharing one of the poems, Helen 🙂

    • Hello Elizabeth. Yes it is fun isn’t it. And isn’t it a lovely thing to showcase one poem at a time. To discuss it and mull over it and see new things as others comment.:-)

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