Series Editor - Jim Bennett

Introduction by Jim Bennett


Hello.  Welcome to the next in the series of CITN featured poets.  We will be looking at the work of a different poet in each edition and I hope it will help our readers to discover some new and exciting writing.  This series is open to all to submit and I am now keen to read new work for this series.


You can join the CITN mailing list at - http://www.poetrykit.org/pkl/index.htm and following the links for Caught in the Net.



They looped and vanished before they landed.

This was where I lay among the straw - gumboots akimbo -

as the plump rat leaned up to sip from the water bucket

while the tease pony watched him complaisantly.


                 from; Waipukurau by Jennifer Compton





Cut Your Cloth

Driving to Otaki


Taking Photographs Without a Camera


The Face of the Body

Law and Order

Mi Scappa una Poesia

For the Cool Guy in the Train from Ljubljana to Venezia

Somewhere in Europe




Jennifer Compton was born in New Zealand in 1949 but is now based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a poet and playwright who also writes prose. Her stage play 'The Big Picture' which was published by Currency Press and premiered at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney, received another production by the Perth Theatre Company last year. 'Merrimba', a memoir, will by published by Ginninderra Press later this year. Recent work has appeared in Poetry London, Poetry Ireland Review, Queen's Quarterly (Canada), Quadrant (Australia), Poetry New Zealand, and in The Best Australian Poetry 2009 and in Best New Zealand Poems 2009. 'Barefoot', her next book of poetry, is ready for publication. From April-July she will be the Visiting Literary Artist at Massey University in New Zealand and in May next year she will be a guest at the 50th anniversary of Sarajevo Poetry Days. She has been married to actor/director/writer Matthew O'Sullivan for thirty-nine years and they have two grown children.







Cut Your Cloth


Take up the scissors, the fingers of your right hand know

where to find them, how to work them. Like that! And that!

Cut the air in two. Crunch the blades with your expertise.

Like a little song of emptiness, find the snip snip that makes

a snarl. Now what was it you were about to do, my friend?


The cloth is streaming off the loom with a shudder and thud

and I know the way the women stand back, I have seen them,

watching, deftly, their big soft hands unflexed on their bellies.

They shift from foot to foot on the long shift, and hum under

the roaring thunder of machines making material and stuff.


I have seen a brisk woman seize a bolt of cloth in a shop

and hurl it on the counter so it unfurls like an omen exact

to the lip, put out one sharp hand to stop the flutter and

measure with both arms what you might want. A yard.

Or more. Sometimes she rips it for you and it screams.


Sometimes she cuts it with a slick kerplunk, kerplunk.

I have seen a woman, dreamy and dismayed by plenty,

listen to the crackle of the taffeta, the purr of velveteen,

hat awry, unable to begin, picking at a cuticle inchoately

as if her hands, and her scissors, are useless things.





Driving to Otaki


My father woke up that day and he was back in the past.

Back in that time and place where all the dead are living. 

It came into his mind to visit his grandmother in Otaki.

The woman from Livorno who had married an Irishman.

She served the pale, quaking macaroni to a table full

of childrens' children with a severe look, like a hawk.

My father got into the company car and drove north.

I imagine his elbow resting on the open window,

a ciggie in his accustomed hand, touching his lips,

moving the gears through their stations.


He drove like an explorer, nosing his car through the traffic,

until a young lad, going home, held out his thumb. It was an

obvious thing to do, to pick him up. The boy took the wheel

and gently drove our father back to us.  







It's knocking at the door in my mind.

- See how the serpent dies on distant hills.

That can only be the lazy coils evacuated

by the dare-devil crop dusting planes.


They looped and vanished before they landed.

This was where I lay among the straw - gumboots akimbo -

as the plump rat leaned up to sip from the water bucket

while the tease pony watched him complaisantly.


And the chaff cutting machine worked in fits and starts.

As the stallions raged in their stalls - fed high on oats -

they dragged me by the rope on their iron bit willy nilly

to the mating barn - and back again. Foaling followed.


The local ice `cream was excellent. 

That boy that I tormented - cold as -

when he wept something stirred in me.

Was it pity? No, I don't know what it was.





Taking Photographs Without a Camera


Consider the stills that thrust themselves

into the place where they must be seen.

The ones I took. Or they took me.


Here’s one. This is me. I am standing

in St Vinnies, Newtown, circa 1976. 

And something clicks. I take a snap.


The bin, jumbled with belts, the red handbag,

dust floating in sunlight through the door,

the smell of talc and toadstools and tobacco.


Sotto voce the voice calling in the alley,

the grind and texture of the traffic.

I am being used (or using) like a machine.


I have seen a horse position her neck

to focus me in one hemispheric eye

and to develop me in that dark room.


The shape and stink of my tribal aura

where I stand within the landscape

and why, and I am captured. Captured.







The field flows like water

over the high hedge

we are perched on top

of the big silence.


The front runners land

the sound begins again

like an oncoming storm

pelting hooves, cursing.



The Face of the Body


The artist's model sees everything but she never speaks.
The actor calls the chest and belly the face of their body.
She puts on her clothes to be unrecognisable. None of
them remember her face. The actor opens the face of his
/her body and engages with the audience. Maybe winks.
She must learn to NOT be naked. And to speak. Speak.


Law and Order


He came up behind me on the street

and held a knife to my bare throat.

My bag was tucked under my arm

but I loosed my grip and let him

rummage inside among my things.

My wallet. With the library cards,

the raffle tickets, and some cash.

With one hand he filched the notes.

I could not see his face but heard

his breath panting on my neck.

My visa card fell to the pavement.

I felt the awkward stoop jolt me

as he picked it up. - What’s this?-

he said. - What’s your name? - he said.

He dragged me backwards towards

the ATM and I silently acquiesced.   

I saw a woman looking at us in this

intimate embrace. In this city street.

The quizzical look you give to lovers

stealing kisses from each other like

a violent crime, a grievous bodily harm.

I struggled to speak, above the knife,

- He wants to know my name! - I said.




 Mi Scappa una Poesia


There's a king coming to visit us? Oh Gawd!

We'd better build a 'little room', a piccola camera

in which to greet him. To receive him.

We've nothing fit for a visiting king.

Let's make it of the right proportion so the voice

that greets him rings like a big bell. The sonorous

acoustic bounce of the brazen voice of confidence.

Like a primitive dance, tattooed and giving a smile

that's almost a smile, almost something quite else.

I-could-kill-you haka - but I won't

if you are impressed.

This perfect sounding chamber, with some paintings!

Of solemn antique things and some cherubs and stuff

above the door, the door. Oh, let's make the door grande!

Doors! Yes. Good idea. Some that really are like doors.

Some columns. Let's paint them gilt. And vault the ceiling.

A king who just has to look up at a divine parabola

leaves his throat exposed. So - niche and column,

paint and gilt, and all things just as they should be.

What else? We have gone as far as we can go?

For sure. That's it. The most. The best. The zenith.

An amber room! Yes, mate. A room made of amber.

What a good joke. Crafted and wrought, intricate and lit

from within by amber fire. Studded with diamonds.

Yes. Now we are cooking with gas. Now we are away laughing.

Just scatter some handfuls of diamonds, lots of them, everywhere.

Could we go any further? Is there anything more?

Chuck in a dog turd. Lay it on the floor.

But that is too ... ironic is not the word.

Disrespectful, on the nose, too up your bum!

What was that? What did he say? Give that man a beer.

Let's bring in a flayed corpse. Do we have one to hand?

Is the shop still open? Do they deliver? Bugger!

Can someone go out and get one? Anyone will do.

Cool. Very cool. Just lay it here. Among the diamonds.

On the amber floor. Perfetto. Just lay him on the floor.

I cannot help how far we will go with this very good idea.

We have done all we can do. There is no further we can go.

Except - here's an idea! Forgive me. You know I cannot help it.

Start up a war, a big one. Transport the room

- chuck out the corpse, he has begun to stink -

transport the room across Europe and then - leave a dickhead

in charge 'as ignorant armies clash by night'

and somehow or other - n'importe quoi - burn it.

Burn it into a grizzled melt shaped like a dog turd

so we are back where we begun. No room.

Pile the rubbish of the city down down upon it

and let rumour and report of the amber room

circulate for as long as forever or even longer.

So if the king wants to visit, put him off. Tell him no.

We have no room in which to greet him.

We cannot greet him in the square, in the open air

or on the patio by the BBQ. That would never do.

Put him off. Tell him anything. Tell him we have lost the room.

Let him think what he likes. We are not doing this thing

all over again.




For the Cool Guy in the Train from Ljubljana to Venezia


I could not help but notice

as a mother

he had no underpants.


He was heading for a job

in Vicenza, Italia

looking cool.


Ripped denim jeans jacket


bum bag, and the loll in the window seat.


The border guards at Dubova

who were keen

sprinting out of their bolt hole


passed me with a scratch

at the hem of my visto

to Italia


but they gave him heaps.

They gave him shite.

I had picked him


out of all the people

in this unusual train

as someone like me.


So when the guards made him unpack

his duffel bag in front of me

a woman passed without demur


and all he owned

no underpants

was laid on the carriage seat


I took an interest.

No underpants I noticed

like a mother.


Bosnia i Hercegovina passport

I intuited as I inclined my head.

They let him pass, with bad grace.


He repacked, a new shirt in its cellophane,

took up his so beautiful posture by the window

ripped denim jacket, sunnies, bum bag, no underpants. 




Somewhere in Europe


... seven people from three nations are having a near death experience

(by night) on the road from Banja Luka to Sarajevo.

Travelling behind the car with Vukovar plates.

And a lurid orange moon squats on a low hill

as if this landscape is the backdrop to a 14 year old boy's

bloodthirsty video game.


... the wave which is the backwash from a vaporetto laps and laps

and licks and licks at the fissure in the step and a woman looks at

it succeeding like a tongue of slow fire.


... a drop of water flings itself up into an arch

above the new Opera House which Charles Dickens never saw.

He died before the bomb fell on the Opera House that he knew.

And the solo pianist with two pianos makes the piano he is playing

reverberate. Like pain, coming at you with two fists and an agenda.  


... the gypsy squats with her hand thrust out just over the border.

She will take konvertible marks or kuna. With melting eyes

a lamb turns on the spit, a delicious guilty stink, powered by

a pretty rush of water in a channel falling into a pool of trout.

The aboriginal bush, surplus to requirements, looms and swoops.


... one of the two or three local whores meets the bus, offering rooms.

That's strange - says the boy. - She's not a room lady.


...  and a man becomes a hologram in a gallery in a famous city.

Until he paid no mind to his audience coming and going

with the elaborate tiptoes, elbows askew, 

there was no way of knowing he was not alive in this place.


... a herd, a throng, stand on the river bank and stare up

at the bridge.

A herd, a throng, stare at the river, the herd on the bank,

from the bridge. 

And a man in red speedos is about to dive, or fly, or is he?


Somewhere in Europe the cemetery is full to the brim

with new graves gleaming, old couples filling vases

at the tap with the precious, transparent water.

The old graves take note of every achievement,

Professor this, Doctor that. With famous sculptures.

And the light bounces off the monumental slab

enough to blind  you - like a lid on everything,

a lid of polished tilting smoothness, green and vast.


Somewhere in Europe a young man stands on his balcony

and looks out at the urban trees as the trams glide by

and he looks at his country, his brand new country.


Somewhere in Europe she stands on stage in her silver shoes

in an absolute jewel of a bijou theatre that somehow survived

and reads your poem in a language nobody understands

and is transfixed by how she absolutely wished for this.

Love is always the best gift - although it may be the last gift. 




Publishing History


The poems above are taken from the forthcoming collection BAREFOOT by Jennifer Compton



4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think.  We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

Thank you for taking the time to read Caught in the Net.  Our other magazine s are Transparent Words ands Poetry Kit Magazine, which are webzines on the Poetry Kit site and this can be found at -