Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksMarch 12, 2021

The Friday Poem: Torque/Talk, by Emma Neale

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new poem from Dunedin poet Emma Neale.


(with acknowledgments to Jasmine Gallagher and Jeanann Verlee)

What if that thing that happened to you once

What if that sudden torque and sear and clench

What if that thing that seemed to go under

Swallowed by air as if by water

Bewilderingly invisible so soon after

What if that thing meant you were changed forever?

Strange aversions, abrupt paralysis, panic swarms amassing in the mind’s caverns[†]

though there were days when you could say

I’m one of the luckiest people alive;

days when you could say and I know

I don’t even know how lucky or alive I truly am.



[†] Beneath the skin, the train of the incident. Say one carriage collapsed and telescoped, another like the body of a woman contorted in an S-bend as she cranes away, resists a sudden heavy shunting compression. Say it all sinks akin to the splintered wood the bent steel the broken seats the eyes the hair follicles the smoke of clove cigarettes the flawed auditory nerves the thrust the apple-cider tongue of the driver, let’s just call him the driver for the sake of, for the sake of; in the aftermath, the explanatory late night visit itself a psychic collision, another kind of moral stain, the slow silent chemical leach of this as if into very still, very placid, very numb blue lake waters …


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are welcome and will be open until the end of April. Please send your poems to

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox