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Photo: Getty Images
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BooksApril 12, 2024

The Friday Poem: ‘狐 fox’ by Lee Murray

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A poem from Lee Murray’s new collection Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud.

狐 fox

        You are running through the streets of a city—Tāmaki Makaurau, or maybe Pōneke—quiet paws scampering over the broken concrete footpaths, where spindly weeds grow from the cracks. You must not be seen. This is important. There are no foxes in Aotearoa; your appearance would cause suspicion, so you shift in and out of the shadows, taking refuge under hedges and behind garden sheds, and steering away from the golden pools that spread beneath the streetlights. You dog the shadowy darkness as you make your way through the city, past weatherboard houses with their broken iron fences, over overgrown front lawns, around the soaring towers of glass and concrete, and beneath the frowning underpasses, where car headlights slice and slant the darkness, and horns honk.

        You come to the waterfront esplanade, where the ocean laps at the jetties with its salty kitten-tongue, and you linger a moment, savouring the smell of fish and feathers. Your stomach growls. These lives have left you ravenous. You chase off the gulls circling an overturned rubbish bin and lick the fish taint from the pages of a greasy newspaper.

        Still hungry, you continue on.

        litter flutters / where the wind pleases

        You find the pile of skulls in a rotting inner-city alleyway. Should you choose one? You are a long way from the glade beside the glass lake. Voices reach you from the main street, where people disperse from a late-night theatre show. Quickly, you pick up the nearest cranium, and perch it on your head.

        Whose skull is this?


Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud (Cuba Press), winner of the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize 2023, is in stores now.

The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are now being accepted until 21 April 2024. Please send up to three poems in a PDF or Word document to

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