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BooksDecember 20, 2019

The Friday Poem: Swingball by Airini Beautrais

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A new poem by Whanganui poet Airini Beautrais.



We’ll rent a holiday home at the beach

with all of our children, seven to twenty-seven

and everyone will feel enthusiastic.


We’ll take towels and sunblock, 

food and other necessities:

board games, insect repellent, 


beer, a pop-up tent, a swingball set.

My children will listen to, and follow, instructions.

Yours will all feel like talking.


We’ll sit around the table at mealtimes

telling clean jokes. And in the evening,

hair wet from swimming, some of us


will hit that ball around that post

with rackets of moulded plastic.

The fuzzy rubber flies around, the game is a fine balance


between co operation and competition,

no one wants the string to go limp

and tangle up in the coil of wire


so that we have to untangle it while swearing.

It’s all about keeping momentum, like learning

to ride a unicycle. There’s laughter,


semi-rhythmic thwacks, sand thrown by feet.

There’s a golden light over everything,

not because we’ve gone back in time


to the nineteen-seventies, but because the sun

is glaring from between layers of stormcloud,

which could mean it will rain tomorrow,


but that’s okay because I brought my handmade set

of anarchist monopoly. The aim of the game:

to collectivise all the property


and convert the board into a community garden.

No one gets bankrupted and has a tantrum

or hides the dice under their butt, everyone


wants to make this work, and it will

if we all pull together, folks.

This won’t be a long weekend to remember,


it will be a blur, melded with all the others,

and when we look back at the albums,

we won’t recall which swingball episode it was.


Did I hear you say beach cricket? Are you with me?

We’ll sit and drink companionably on the porch.

At least be with me on the fish and chips,


be with me on the swingball,

The dip and lift, the returning motion, the full-circle.

No one can play a thing like that single-handed.



The Friday Poem is edited by Ashleigh Young. Submissions are welcome at

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