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by Tim Upperton

One morning it’s all over.
Tomato vines nod vaguely
above their sticks. They never

thrive here: if it’s not early
blight it’s late blight, or shield-bug,
the fruit garish and nearly

good — a curate’s clutch of eggs.
Those knotted, speckled beans, brown
like an old man’s fingers. Dig

them all in. Dig in the corn,
that all summer shook and kept
its thin hands in its sleeves. Down

with them, the burst, purple-topped
carrots, the peas’ drunken row,
the blackened, small courgettes sapped

by a single, vast marrow:
the hopelessness of neglect.
What does a vegetable know?

Decay’s slow, indifferent fact,
the groundward pull that pulls you.
Oh, everything’s spoiled, wrecked,

the cabbage drilled through and through.
This is the slug’s rank kingdom.
This is the one thing that’s true.


Tim Upperton is a creative writing tutor at Massey University, New Zealand. He has published poetry and fiction in a variety of New Zealand and overseas magazines, including Sport, North & South, Takahe, and Dreamcatcher, and he is the recipient of several literary prizes in his home country.

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