“Nobody in the Water,” a Poem by Tayi Tibble

Celebrating This Year's PEN World Voices Festival

May 9, 2022  By Tayi Tibble

“Nobody in the Water”

Nobody goes near the lake anymore, not since
they found that swollen brown body floating
amongst the pōhutukawa leaves and beer cans.
Nobody goes near the lake anymore, because
it smells acrid and sour. The surface has curdled
chewy like spoilt milk, or so we imagine, because
nobody goes near the lake anymore and nobody
feeds the ducks Budget white bread. Instead they
eat discarded fish and chips outside the shops and
in the mouths of red-collared pit bulls. So even
the ducks don’t go near the lake anymore
nobody goes near the lake anymore, but people drive
past and remember to lock their doors and warn their
Nobody goes near the lake anymore because it
stains like shame in the thick skin of the city and
really nobody goes near the lake anymore because
nobody ever did. And one could guess, that’s
probably why his body ended up in there, floating
in the first place.

Tayi Tibble headlines the 2022 PEN World Voices Festival events “World Verses: An Evening of International Poetry” and “Nation to Nation: Indigenous Voices on Reckoning and Reconciliation.” For more information about the festival, which takes place May 11-14 in New York and Los Angeles, please visit worldvoices.pen.org.



From Poukahangatus by Tayi Tibble to be published July 26, 2022 by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Tayi Tibble.

Tayi Tibble
Tayi Tibble
Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. In 2017, she completed a master’s degree in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. Her debut book of poetry, Poukahangatus is forthcoming from Knopf in July 2022. Her second book of poetry, Rangikura, will be published in the United States in 2023.

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