Tuesday Poem: ‘The biographer’s body’ by Elizabeth Welsh

The biographer’s body

Her hand is always in view. A love
letter, perpetual game of hide-&-seek
played, where you catch a corner
of shirt-sleeves, the sole of a running shoe.

It is a pact, this dodge. Promises
that involve replacing apricots & leaves
with her noon-time shadow. A dust sheet
over a marble statue; although the body is always there.

A niggling twig snagging your hair,
is what it is, this zipping up the skin of another
to find a toe poking out; a call to let
another notice you, under all this hiding.

Let the Teumessian fox be trapped, caught, stroked;
Let hagiography reign; let me note down the noter.


This poem first appeared in the November 2012 issue of Magma, edited by Judy Brown and Cherry Smyth. The theme of this issue is “the visible and the invisible” and even if Elizabeth shares her aversion to writing to themes on her blog, she nevertheless tackles this theme with grace. It’s a delicate poem, one containing secrets and glimpses and bare truths. What I love most about this poem is the playful nature of it — the way the physical presence is both hidden and revealed. This interaction between what one might see and what one might not — both literally and metaphorically — creates a wonderful full thing. And then there’s the imagery and language — phrasing like “catch a corner/ of shirt sleeves”,  “a niggling twig”, the “zipping up the skin”.

Elizabeth blogs more about writing this poem here. Do go and see the poet’s own reflections on this issue of Magma. I thank Elizabeth for sharing her poem with me for this week’s Tuesday Poem post.

Elizabeth WelshElizabeth Welsh is an academic editor and poet. A New Zealander, she currently lives in South London. In 2012, she won the inaugural Auckland University Press Emerging Poet prize. She is currently working on a chapter for an edited collection on short story writer Katherine Mansfield and her influences and recently spoke on Mansfield at the Sorbonne. She has run an online magazine – The Typewriter – for emerging Asia-Pacific poets for four years. She blogs about all things literary here.


Be sure to stop in and see the other poems posted this week by the Tuesday Poem collective — by clicking below.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.

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6 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘The biographer’s body’ by Elizabeth Welsh

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Poem – Problems of a journalist (Weldon Kees) | Elizabeth Welsh

  2. Really enjoy this poem Michelle. Good Choice. Have seen it before and this remains my favourite line… ‘this zipping up the skin of another
    to find a toe poking out;’

  3. Andrew Bell says:

    Hi Michelle,

    What’s a “Teumessian fox”? I’m intrigued. Must Google it.

    Happy World Poetry Day.


    Andrew Bell

  4. Oh that is such a good reference with which to end this poem, Andrew! Enjoy your research… 🙂

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for so generously posting my poem as part of your Tuesday Poem sequence, Michelle – feel very honoured 🙂 Andrew, a Teumessian fox is from Greek mythology. It was a gigantic fox that was destined never to be caught. Zeus eventually turned it to stone and cast it into the stars.

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