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.
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
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
I call for help
I call and call for help.
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
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.
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,
as a doornail,
as a dodo,
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.