Tuesday Poem: Summer in the City’ by Helen McKinlay

Summer in the City

Each day the workers take the train the bus
bare-limbed – try to fit their space
but find the brush of strangers’ skin
Observe how the sun bleached hairs
on other forearms
glint – the tiny beads of sweat – jewels –
distracted – miss their stops.

Arrive late in offices where
glass-caged – management
allow their teas and coffees
to become the wild cool water
they long for.
Observe the frogs rustling in the rushes
cranes stepping daintily
pond weed dropping.
Dripping on their managerial desks.

Allow themselves to stretch
fingers sensing feathers.
Clutching downy necks
are transported
into cloudless skies.
Aware how cool the wind
against their wings.

And all the while the workers
continue unawares
look forward
to the long journey home –
the enchantment of skin
jostling skin.

© Helen McKinlay

Posted with permission from the author.

I’m so pleased to feature this poem by Helen McKinlay today. It captures small observations and moments of contact in a sharp manner. The contrasts, the sense of touch, smell, and something very present, as well as a longing for something else perhaps — I like how all that and more is contained here. I like the flow of in-and-out, each day going to and fro — and how amidst that activity these tiny things are present as well. Beads of sweat are jewels, fingers hint at feathers and wings — a sense of almost taking flight. This poem can be read many times, each time revealing the care with which the poet put down each word.

Author’s Comment:

22440_18WebThis poem was inspired by a hot summer several years ago. I was sympathising with those working in high rise city buildings while I cooled off beside a rural lake. It was natural to progress through to freedom, the touch of the air on one’s skin and the touch of other skins, be they of humans, birds or frogs. The transcendent qualities of the imagination governs all.

Thank you, Helen McKinlay, for sharing your work this week!

More about Helen McKinlay:

Helen McKinlay was a founding member of Live Poets at Golden Bays famous Mussel Inn, and she has performed in a number of venues since. Her poetry has been published in a wide variety of anthologies chapbooks and magazines in NZ, internationally and online. While in Christchurch she set up Poetry for Pudding, a live poets group for all ages and stages. She is a member of the Tuesday Poem blog. She is also a children’s writer. ‘Summer in the City’ was published in Takahe, April 2014.

Helen blogs at Gurgle Words. Some of her poetry can be found there.


Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. At the TP hub this week, This week’s Tuesday Poem is “Lucifer In Las Vegas” by Joanna Preston, a poet from Canterbury. Helen Lowe is the editor of Tuesday Poem this week and she says of her choice:

“I love poems that tell a story. As both a poet and Fantasy novelist, I really love a new, exciting take on an old story – and the moment of recognition when you first “hear” that new “voice”, in this case of Lucifer, recounting the fall…”

To read the poem and the full commentary, please click here.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.


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3 Responses to Tuesday Poem: Summer in the City’ by Helen McKinlay

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh, those small details – the glinting hairs, tiny beads of sweat – sitting alongside the breadth and largeness of ‘wild cool waters’ and ‘downy necks’ in the sky is just stunning. Love the final lines with the ‘skin jostling skin’ too. It’s been great to read the poems you’ve shared together, Helen & Michelle!

  2. Thank you Michelle and Elizabeth. Sharing poems with Michelle has given me a new appreciation of touch and the breadth of its meaning and importance in our lives.

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