Recovery Room

 

When I returned I was different. I was cold all the time,

wore wool against my skin. The shock of the cold

 

carried with me into summer. I could not leave the two bar

heater; the layers plied on. Some fear came up with me

 

in the recovery room, where my teeth chattered and the nurses

hurried to find a blanket of foil; leant in to monitor my eyes.

 

I think I left something no lost and found can contain

under the desk, or behind the locked door where no mouth can ask

 

for a red umbrella or gaily checked scarf.

I wandered around in hats and long velvet skirts, black

 

to keep the heat. I bundled up and my doctor said, ‘You’re so thin

there’s nothing of you.’

 

And he said later, ‘They’ll put you in a ward and shock you.’

And that shocked me.

 

And later I saw him driving a yellow Volkswagen, top down,

with children in the back licking ice creams.

 

 

 

 

3rd place winner in The Troubadour Poetry Prize 2014 – judged by Neil Astley and Amy Wack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifesaving

 

They don’t do it anymore,

breathe into the mouth to save.

 

We had learnt it reluctantly,

lined up beside a recumbent dummy,

 

waiting to take our turn to kneel at that mouth.

The simplest things disturb –

 

at night when the fluoros shut off and the cover is pulled,

the tiles swabbed – there it lies open,

 

not even a ventriloquist’s dummy

is so exposed.

 

 

 

 

2nd place winner in The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2015 – judged by Tristram Fane-Saunders and Holly Howitt-Dring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Players Are Dead

 

I

 

The players are dead

but he comes back at night,

the perp is dead

but he comes back at night.

And my mouth makes a sound

but it cannot form a word,

and it makes a sound

but it cannot form a word,

 

and after a time my tongue

gets around it and I call

for help,

 

I call for help

I call and call for help.

 

 

II

 

Through the gauze I see your shape,

looming there outside the mosquito net,

your underpants hastily snatched from a chair,

as you hurried to stop my moaning.

 

You have punctured my dreams,

brought me from paralysis,

I was a body in the cool

light of the morgue,

I was a corpse slicked blue

and yellow,

limbs shaking,

limbs twitching, gases escaping,

I was dead

 

at the sound of your voice;

half of you in the dowsed light

through the mosquito net,

like the cat that only sees the woman’s legs.

 

 

III

 

In the morning we review

what the triggers could have been:

the girl half strangled on TV                                                                                             

we glimpsed before I shut my eyes.

 

The players are dead,

the perp, he went long ago,

 

the players are dead,

how dead they are,

doorknob dead,

dead

dead

dead

 

as a doornail,

as a dodo,

dodo dead.

 

 

IV

 

It’s not a dream,

stiffly I see everything,

pulled down from the cross and laid,

through the gauze of the mosquito net

 

it is always the same,

I am blitzed, from behind

I am grasped,

two of the largest strongest arms,

and feel something stiff at my back

and this time wonder why he did not move

when I moved my mouth so hard

making sounds that surely could be heard?

 

And some of the dead are in bed through the wall

(of the childhood house).

I hear movement

and think, through my struggle,

one of them has heard.

 

 

 

 

First published in The Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, edited by Dr. Jack Ross, Massey University Press.