Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem: PATRICK


Nine years have passed
since that telephone call.

This afternoon we walk past
the tree we planted over your ashes.

Your mother admires
a chaffinch landing cheekily
beside us on the duck pond rail.

We stroll up to the swings
where she says if you were alive now
she wouldn’t remember you playing there

nor would I describe a chaffinch,
chestnut, confident, elegant, commanding
attention by its very presence alongside us.

Harvey McQueen

In 1987 my eighteen-year old stepson Patrick was killed in an accident in Sydney. The hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life was to tell his mother her son was dead. Certain lights went out that have never come on again. Nine years later I wrote this poem. Anyone who knows the Wellington Botanic Gardens will recognise the location.

The Tuesday poem website is


  1. That's a beautiful poem, Harvey - the final stanza most of all. Despite the sad subject matter, I loved reading this poem.

  2. Oh, what heartbreak...

    Harvey, you've captured in very spare language just how certain deaths impact every detail of our lives. This is amazing insight in the midst of a terrible tragedy. Bless you.

  3. I came here via another blog (Homepaddock). Your poem is beautiful.

  4. I love the confident chaffinch and the ghost of the swinging boy and how they talk to each other... or are each other... very moving

  5. Lovely, and heartbreaking. Thank you.

    On a tangent, but I was reminded by the lines 'This afternoon we walk past / the tree we planted over your ashes', I still have the kowhai tree I got as a seedling at your book launch about 5 or 6 years ago. It has grown much taller, despite still being in a pot (a much larger one now), but is quite a shrub. I confess to sometimes naming my plants, and have always thought of that kowhai as Harvey.