Tuesday Poem: ‘Small Child on a Trampoline’ by Owen Marshall


And I see a little girl bouncing
fearless and alone upon a trampoline.
Higher and higher until the perfect
instant of equilibrium between
momentum to the sky and the drive
of gravity to the core.

And she is transfixed there for ever
weightless, smiling open mouthed
dark hair flung out, skinny legs free
of duty, hands outstretched as stars
against the buttoned white flowers
of the dogwood trees.

copyright Owen Marshall. Posted with permission from the poet.

OM, The white clockThis poem was published in Owen Marshall’s poetry collection, The White Clockpublished by Otago University Press last year. Readers can see a look into the collection at Paula Green’s Poetry Shelf, and an interview with the poet also with Paula Green, titled ‘Poetry in the Service of Something Sincerely Felt’, in which the poet talks, among other things, of his relationship to poetry and short story:

In my writing the inclination is perhaps to the short story, which itself tends towards the associative effects of poetry because of the need for economy.   My poetry tends to be more personal than the prose, directly related to my own experience and feelings.  I can’t will poetry in the way I can prose.  The poems come in their own time, sometimes thick and fast, sometimes not at all. 

Please visit the whole interview here.

What I love about this poem is the way it creates a perfect image before the reader’s eyes, how it captures a moment in motion. The reader instantly feels an emotional connection to this scene, this girl. And yet, there is a distance, too: it’s an observational piece that exercises remarkable restraint in language and tone, even as it peers into this girl’s skyward hop. Beginning with ‘And…’ creates a sense that there is much more here, that whatever is occurring in the narrator’s life is happening off-stage, in the margins, and is relevant but will not be revealed. Delicate balance there, achieved with the simple placement of that one opening word. We enter the poem in the middle of the narration, and we want to stay there.

To me, this poem is a flash of a life. It’s not exactly a story — but there’s a story lurking here, a hint at a whole life yet to unfold, that hair flung out, those arms outstretched…. A perfect balance of concrete detail and the wide possibilities of the universe.

Owen Marshall is one of the two judges of the National Flash Fiction Day competition this year (along with Fiona Kidman), and with this minute sample of his work you can see how he captures so much in a tiny space. He is a master when it comes to economy of words.

I’m pleased to share this poem today, as we are coming down to the last week of the submissions period for National Flash Fiction Day competition. Submissions close April 30, and all NZ writers — citizens and residents,  prose and poetry enthusiasts — are encouraged to participate. Details here

Thank you, Owen Marshall, for sharing.


owen-marshallOwen Marshall has written, or edited, over 25 books. He has held fellowships at the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, and in Menton, France. In 2000 he received the ONZM and in the same year his novel Harlequin Rex won the Montana Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction. Marshall is an adjunct professor at the University of Canterbury, which awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in 2002. He was awarded the CNZM in 2012 for services to literature, and in 2013 received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction.

More can be found at the New Zealand Book Council site and at Owen Marshall’s website.



Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. Please check out the other poets and the main poem at the TP hub this week — The quiet life at Glenfinnan (1877, Runs 458/468) by Robynanne Milford, brought to us by Hub Editor Helen Lowe.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.


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3 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘Small Child on a Trampoline’ by Owen Marshall

  1. Helen Lowe says:

    This is wonderful — & wonderful to see Owen here. 🙂

  2. An exquisite poem. So lovely to see this side of Owen’s writing. Thanks for posting it Michelle.

  3. Thank you, dear Helens, for stopping by and taking this in. I’m a big fan of OM’s writing, oh yes.

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