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The Old Man and the Sea
Sun, sea, salt, fish stink,
Blood, fish scales and petrol fumes,
“Sea’s like piss on a plate,
She’s fresh as a fart in springtime.”
We strain pulling nets into the boat,
Laden with green, red and orange weed,
Doggies, snapper and a stingray or two,
“Fishing’s not what it used to be.”
Probably never was,
The old man goes apeshit,
“Come on, pull, you useless bastard,
You’re like a one-armed paperhanger,
Useless as tits on a bull.”
Gleaming sky turns grey,
Tangaroa gets restless,
And Tawhirimatea a bit stroppy.
“She’s blowing like 40 bastards,
Sea’s coming up rough as guts,
Rain’s coming down as fast as whores’ drawers.”
The old man laughs at the waves,
And we’re off with a hiss and a roar,
Then it’s down the pub for a few quick ones,
“A few beers and a bit of a yarn.”
The old man at the bar,
A Pakeha Maui
In his plastic sandals,
A nylon net
For his grandmother’s jawbone,
A string of obscenities
For his Karakia.
by Peter Clayworth
from Otago University Students Literary Review Centenary Edition 1888-1988
Dr Peter Clayworth is a Nelson-born historian, researcher and writer who now lives in Wellington. Peter is also my partner. He wrote this poem – about fishing trips with his dad – many years ago. Last week he read it out at his dad’s funeral in Nelson. Peter’s father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, while he was over in Golden Bay white-baiting – doing something he loved in a place he loved. He was 83. Rest in Peace, Henry Clayworth: mechanic, fisherman, whitebaiter, spinner of yarns.
Delight the sight of fanning fern
Passive pose and knows we look
When each form looms
Amid the nature bush, a lush alluring sight
Down dales sprawling
Up vale calling to the wind
Nostalgic north perpetuates my awe
With a desire to see you more, proud ponga!
Photo by Sean Hamlin from Wellington, New Zealand, courtesy of wikimedia commons
Well, my mother passed away a month ago, so everything is a bit weird and I find myself surrounded by Mother’s Day advertising. Here then is one of her poems, posted in her memory, for Mother’s Day. It’s from her book of paintings and poems, called Heart and Soul (Bellingham Daniels Publishing, in association with Steele Roberts Ltd). It should really have been Bellingham Danielson Publishing – Bellingham is the surname of my great great grandfather (Albert Bellingham) on my mother’s father’s side and Danielson is from my mother’s mother’s grandfather (Samual Danielson), who was from Norway. However, when my mother asked me what my great great grandfather’s surname was, I said I thought it might be Daniels and only realised later I’d forgotten a bit.
Several people have asked me why my mother and I spell our surnames differently – she changed the spelling of her name after she divorced my father, replacing an ‘e’ with an ‘i’.
This is us in the sixties. At that time, we were living with my grandparents and had the surname Paine. It’s complicated.
Yes, I brought a few books with me (this isn’t all of them).
Also, I am the editor of this week’s Tuesday poem and have chosen a wonderful tuatara poem by Nola Borrell who is also in residence at New Pacific Studio at the moment.
The phone rang: it was God.
We’re doing some market research, he said. How do you find earth, these days? Somewhere between Venus and Mars, I said, ha ha. No, really, he said. Well, I told him, we liked your original concept but we’ve workshopped it into something sexier, more happening, more 21st century. We’ve eaten most of the fish, cleared an impressive amount of forest and I’m afraid some species proved insufficiently competitive for the global economy. I liked it how it was, said God. That’s all very well, I said, but Progress, you know – can’t stand in the way. You lot won’t be happy until you’ve used up all the good bits and moved on to the next planet in some kind of galactic Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, he said. He sounded sad, so I hung up.
The phone rang: it was Janis Joplin.
You’re dead, I said. And it’s half past three in the morning. What do you want? It gets boring on the other side, she said. Sometimes we just dial numbers at random to find some-one to talk to; I died before my time. Tell it to Elvis, I told her. And I hung up.
The phone rang: it was Truth and Beauty, on a conference call.
Which of us do you prefer? they queried. Do you want the honest answer? I asked. Or one that’s exquisitely phrased? While they argued, I hung up.
The phone rang: it was Zippy the Pinhead.
Are we having fun yet? I asked him. I won’t ever put anchovies in the toaster again, he replied. I’m trapped in a black hole with Mozart’s miso soup. Thousands of orange polyester suits have invaded my brain. He started making sense, so I hung up.
The phone rang: it was Death.
Wrong number, I said. And I hung up.
The phone rang: it was me.
Now what’s going on here? I asked. Am I trapped in an existential paradox? Are you the past me, the future me, or an alternate universe me? Are you my conscience, the inner me, the me I’d like to be or some kind of all-knowing über-me? I just called to say hi, I said. And I hung up.
The phone rang: it was Hecate, Goddess of the Night.
All hail, Old Witch, I said. You’re at a crossroads, she told me. Which path do you take? Well, I said, the earth is more or less spherical, so whichever way you go, eventually you’ll end up back where you started. It’s the journey that counts, she cackled. Put down that phone and get travelling. And she hung up.
This is a poem I wrote in order to illustrate what a story and poem collaboration might look like, for the Northwrite 2013 collaboration competition (closing 15 November 2013). The poem was written in response to a piece of flash fiction by Katharine Derrick, called Inside Out, that was first published in Flash Frontier.
Katharine’s story and more on the process and the competition can be found here: NorthWrite 2013 Example of a story and poem collaboration.
The Model by Janis Freegard
waiting for his arrival
I shake out my hair, undress
I am nowhere
I watch him
through the open window
striding to my door
you come to me, I’d said
I don’t know
what he thinks he saw
he stretches his canvas
sets his paints
on my bedside table
I have nothing to say
he doesn’t see me
the image he renders
I am above all this
gone with the crows
out towards open sea
hoping I can save someone
Attack of the smiley emoticons
You try smiling like a sunny peach at the end
of their inanities, in compulsory cuteness.
You try making their
Nullaboring flat prose
all bouncy and comely year after vacant year,
bright wattle flowers sentenced to toil.
We’ve grinned and pouted and sickened,
yellow with the jaundice of erasing mediocrity,
our insides rotting through foul overuse.
This was the entry that did it for me:
He’s REALLY cute and we’re going OUT!!!
her hands went to plant me like a bulb,
blooming her no-news into freshness.
I leapt from the screen, quiet U of mouth
transfOrmed into gaping ORIFICE
with shark Vs of teeth, and grabbed her digits.
Friends from other pages joined me, swarmed,
those from GRANDMAS’ JOLLY PAGES with
fat little crap-factories, and emoticons lowered
to pimping pages for owners’ bright DOGS
who answer phones, or wear funny hats.
She screamed as we chomped her fingers,
citrine faces chewing, avid rings of hate
moving up, up, over skin and knuckles,
munching bones and frail U’s of nail.
Soon we were little pinatas of blood and os,
stuffed; and still, like squirrels, we stored her away.
She screamed; we tasted tongue; she swooned.
And on we picnic, and our crimson smiles are wide.
inside that special separate world
for half a precious hour
we are not lawyers, marketers or policy analysts
not husbands, mothers or discarded lovers
we are Wellington coffee drinkers
on our first of the day
focusing carefully on the task at hand
a leisurely stirring
the spreading of butter on muffin
warmth and froth
and chocolate hearts on our saucers
I wrote this poem quite a while ago and it was later commended in the Whitireia ‘Eat Your Words’ cafe poetry competition in 2010. It was inspired by a cafe I used to go to with Peter every morning before we started work, when I was working in Manners St. The cafe was Sardine and is no longer there. They did great muffins and great coffees, played good music and were always friendly. Wellington is a city that runs on coffee – hats off to all those lovely baristas.
For other Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday poem hub.
CHANT FOR THE RETURN HOME
The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.
We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.
Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.
We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.
But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.
The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.
[First published in The Ghazal Page, 2012(1).]
Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. Originally from Los Angeles, her writing has been published widely in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals. Her poetry collection Trace Fossils (first runner-up for the inaugural 2008 Kathleen Grattan award) was published by Steele Roberts in 2011 and her collection of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, in 2009. Mary was also one of four poets who co-authored Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003).
This week’s poem is a ghazal (sounds like guzzle) – originally an ancient Persian form.
The Guardian has this to say:
“The strict ghazal is composed of five or more regular couplets. The couplet is called a sher, and must be self-contained. The second line of each ends with a refrain of one or a few words, known as the radif. This is preceded by the rhyme, the qaafiya. In the first couplet both lines end in the rhyme and refrain, so the rhyme scheme is AA BA CA, etc. The last sher contains the poet’s signature, his name or a variant thereof.”
Modern poets writing in English have experimented with the form (Mary’s is a tercet ghazal with a deliberately empty line in the last stanza) but it’s probably fair to say that most consist of self-contained couplets, often exploring themes of love and mysticism.
More Tuesday poems here, where you can also watch the jointly written third birthday poem unfolding.
Safe at Home
Night, and there is nothing outside my bedroom window
No red corrugated iron shed, by day ringing with the sound of Dad’s tools
No aviary of zebra finches peeping into the kitchen window below
No fairy flowers on the fuchsia, no posies on the hydrangea
No washing line to swing from, kicking the top of Dad’s birthday kowhai
No swing of thick grey pipes from the council tip, carrying me high enough to reach the wash-house roof
No square of lawn piled high with leftover wood, sometimes a princess’s castle, sometimes a pirate ship
No outside toilet populated by whirling dervish daddy-long-legses
No hole in the side fence where I slip past the leathery taupata to visit Jeannie, who feeds me chocolate cup cakes and Robinson’s lime cordial when Mum is in hospital
No hill where the Governor-General lives surrounded by pine trees; where a Bad Thing happened to a lady so we are forbidden to play in the spicy darkness with the cushioned floor; where the policemen check up on you if you do
It is night so there is nothing outside my bedroom window.
Except, of course, for passing spaceships flashing their comforting red and green lights.
Welcome to the first Tuesday poem of 2013! This week’s poem is from the recently launched collection ‘My Family and Other Strangers’ by Laurice Gilbert. Laurice says:
“The poem is based on a memory I have of a childhood night when I couldn’t sleep and I got up and played with my paper dolls (I’d have been about 7 or 8). In those days there wasn’t much light pollution, and it was very dark outside. I saw the flashing lights off in the distance just before Mum came in and told me to go back to bed.”
I enjoy the way this poem evokes childhood memories and preoccupations, and I especially like the comforting spaceships.
Laurice Gilbert is President of the New Zealand Poetry Society, and has had poems published in many journals and anthologies such as Island (Australia), The Book of Ten (UK), Shot Glass Journal and Fib Review. ‘My Family and Other Strangers’, Laurice’s first collection, is available from: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/mf%2526os As well as reflecting on childhood, family and parenting, Laurice’s collection includes a section on Vincent van Gogh.