the writer as thief

I am the catburglar

a feline

a shadow

I climb drainpipes and chimneys

winter-limbed trees

through windows and doorways and holes

into cupboards

I purr over words to my liking

the bon mot

the bauble

the paper on a string

I harry them

scurry them

caress them with claws


words with feathers

words with tails

that chirrup or squeak

or quietly acquiesce

like a well-kneaded cushion.

I am the felon

the gallows-bait

at the cross-roads

I swing from the gibbet

after gavel

and noose

my fingers in pockets

my hands round the throat

I wield cutlass and crowbar

pare back the paragraph

prise open the sentence

steal all the words in the lexicon

in the treasure chest

in the jewel box

I’m pirate and plunder and prose.

I am the larcenist

the arsonist

fingers like thistle down

thoughts like fire

I prowl through night-mares

or fleet dreams

I pilfer your conversations

I pinch snippets and snatches

I purloin pronouncements and proclamations

fire them in flames

beat them on anvils

they ring forth new-moulded

forged and new-minted

I am the filcher, the sneak-thief, the poacher

I take the words

right out of your mouth.

Jeni Curtis is a Christchurch writer who has had short stories and poetry published in various publications including takahē, NZPS anthologies (2014 to 2019), JAAM, Blackmail Press, Atlanta Review, The London Grip, and the Poetry NZ Yearbook. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is secretary of the 'Canterbury Poets Collective', and chair of the takahē trust. She is also co-editor of poetry for takahe.