Poems, Imitations & Translations



[Coptic Papyri]


  1. Papyri: Love-poems & fragments
    from Sappho & elsewhere

  2. Ovid in Otherworld (2006)

  3. The Puppet Oresteia (2008)

  4. The Britney Suite (2003)

  5. 31 Days (2009)

  6. Case Studies (2001)

  7. Flying Blind (2009)

  8. Theme & Variations (2010)

  9. Celanie: Poems & Drawings after Paul Celan (2010-12)

  10. Melbourne Notebook (2011-12)

  11. A Clearer View of the Hinterland (2014)

  12. Poetry Specials (2008-2018)

  13. Collage Poems (1997-2005)

  14. Can Poetry Save the Earth? (2018)

  15. Fernando Pessoa (2000)

  16. Three Versions from Rilke (2019)

  17. The Oceanic Feeling (2021)

  18. The Zero Suite (2023)

[Bruegel the Elder: The Tower of Babel (1525)]


The Zero Suite (2023)

[all photographs: Bronwyn Lloyd]

The Zero Suite


i.m. Zero Tolerance Lloyd-Ross
(c. November 2007-21st April 2023)

  1. Give blood (26/1-7/2/08)
  2. Zero at the Bone (12-15/3/08)
  3. April Fool’s Day (1/4-18/6/09)
  4. Returning to Auckland after Dark (6/9-1/10/13)
  5. A Traveller on the Road to Emmaus (2/1-29/8/16)
  6. Zero is lying down today (18/1/16-22/10/17)
  7. New Year 2016 (19/1/16-19/10/17)
  8. Last night the heat got (28/1/16-7/5/17)
  9. What to do till the sentinels come (11-23/4/18)
  10. All I want (2/9/22-8/4/23)


The Zero Suite (1)

Give Blood

go skateboarding
– Boy’s T-shirt

I’m going to wear jandals
taking a walk
on the wild side

when you just know
there’s nothing
they can
do to you

a tentative attempt
becomes the hero’s
salmon leap
our cat Zero

’s attack
on a blank
made of calico

I fulminate
to captive audiences
(taking the piss
no doubt

in furtive whispers)
the leap of faith
we bargained on

the fear that dogs our days


This poem first appeared in the collection below:

Jack Ross. Kingdom of Alt (Auckland: Titus Books, 2010): 120.


The Zero Suite (2)

Zero at the bone

The dark looniness
of your leaping
worries me

no pause to reflect
furry paws

food comfort sleep
combine in
strange parentheses

(just like the town
they found you in

post-Xmas traffic)
beating up
poor Smudge

before you’d met us
now hounding

forgiving? maybe

roving emblem
of desire

claws outspread


This poem first appeared in the anthology below:

Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand poems about animals. Ed. Siobhan Harvey (Auckland: Godwit, 2009): 67-68.


The Zero Suite (3)

April Fool’s Day

Dure plus que fer à mâcher
– François Villon

Dure plus que fer à mâcher
harder than iron to chew
the nine o’clock start
on the road by five to eight
You’re sillier than I am
No, you’re sillier
Farewell to the great kitten of time

She knows she’ll get disturbed
every quarter of an hour
while I’m around
Even though she sleeps
for four hours at a time
when we’re not here?
She’s pining

Security barrier down
reverse to try the other one
A truck in front of it
Drake Security Services
& then the pen / this pen
I keep by the dashboard
in case I have a thought

whilst driving
slips out of my hand
A sign? It’s dangerous enough
to scribble stuff
when the traffic lights are red
but groping for a ballpoint
under the seat

must rate way over that
The certainty of aggravation
To be up & moving, good
The simultaneous lure
of ten more minutes in bed
combined with the cud
of problems to be chewed

& brooded over
Free-floating anxiety
seizing on what’s to hand
Dure plus que fer à mâcher
The day
awaits its – what?
Its spark?

The day awaits its dark


This poem first appeared in the collection below:

Jack Ross. A Clearer View of the Hinterland: Poems and Sequences 1981-2014 (Wellington: HeadworX, 2014): 137-38.


The Zero Suite (4)

Returning to Auckland after Dark
(after Su Shi)

their theme is usually parting and sorrow of lonely woman
– Xu Yuan Zhong

Drinking at evening in the airport bar
I try the pinot gris then the Monteiths
the Jetstar flight’s on timesurprise surprise
even a little early maybe

will Bronwyn be awake
when I get home?
or Zero perhaps
– less liable to forgive

my absences?
What can I do but listen to the sea
pounding on Mairangi Bay beach
like the hum of the supermarket

air-conditioning units?
halfway up the hill
rather than where we are

She’s off herself
on Saturday morning
Zero & I
will hold the fort alone



The Zero Suite (5)

A Traveller on the Road to Emmaus

And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, ‘Abide with us: for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent’. And he went in to tarry with them.
– Luke 24: 13-15.

Wars and rumours of wars
even the sparrows look shell-shocked

as they huddle on the clothesline
seeing the New Year in

with beating rain and wind
the kitten steals the warm spot on the duvet

when I get up for a moment
treatises on how best to treat your slaves

from ISIS
shock when an All-Black

tweets corpse-snaps
from a refugee village

it should have come with a warning
prates some Tom Fool

so should the world
come in and tarry with us

even though I don’t believe in you
doubt that you ever existed

I like to think of that dusty road
that traveller joining the others

making as though he would have gone further
tarry with us a while

and bring a friend


This poem first appeared in the journal below:

Poetry NZ Yearbook 2021. Ed. Tracey Slaughter (Auckland: Massey University Press, 2021): 248-49.


The Zero Suite (6)

Zero is lying down today

but little specks of blood
on the bedspread
make me think

she may have run into
one of her twin nemeses
last night

a big fat greedy
green-collared glutton

or Brindle
a raccoon-tailed

each of whom
sneaks in the back door
several times a day

to eat her food
she jumps out
hisses at them

but is only a little cat
once or twice we’ve seen
them ganging up on her

unable to help her
unless it’s in plain sight
I suppose that’s it

our little cat
so wilful

has become the thing
we most fear losing

yet cannot safeguard
threaten to crush
with the sheer weight

of our love


This poem first appeared in the journal below:

Poetry NZ Yearbook 2020. Ed. Johanna Emeney (Auckland: Massey University Press, 2020): 117-18.


The Zero Suite (7)

New Year 2016

It takes quite a while
for things to crank into
their usual chaos

no heavy traffic on the road
for instance
parking places everywhere

no replies to emails
plaintive cries
for rooms to be changed

bodies counted
classes organised
while I sit here

typing out old titles
from the NZ Poetry Yearbook
full of sage reflections

on the scandal of Ezra Pound’s Cantos
Songs for this that & the other
what a lot of singing they did

back thenthe early names
of subsequently celebrated writers
Jowsey for Ireland

I A H Paterson for Alistair
and I think to myself
that I share this taste for stasis

dread to encounter
more ghastly bombings
what is it with building bombs?

when did that become
the sine qua non
of strong political opinions?

butI supposeup lad
thews that cumber
sunlit pallets never thrive

Zero can go back to bed
after keeping us up half the night
With demands for food

and succour
but we must endure
I’m afraid

we must endure



The Zero Suite (8)

Last night the heat got

So extreme
we dragged our mattress
into the living room
under the heat pump
turned to maximum cold

even that didn’t work
because the cat
confused by the new arrangements
meowed all night
and kept us up

my mother’s memory
is quite defective
ever since the event of 0-12
‘a migraine’
said her doctors

the aphasia did wear off
but now she can’t
kickstart her memory
she often gets it if reminded
but seldom admits to knowing anything

it’s hard to explain what it’s like
she tells us
I believe her
what can it feel like
to wander in a haze

making decisions you go back on
five minutes later
no longer knowing
who your childhood stories
happened to?

perhaps it’s like
these humid nights
wrapped in a sweatsheet
unable to bear the covers
ticking away the time

in shapeless fog?