Oh Welly, you shining star Today you were my heartbeat as I walked your streets to Te Papa to listen to a conversation about a very modern woman our Katherine Mansfield 100 years since she died Oh Welly, what would she think of you today... Wouldn't she be surprised The things she might have said about the dreaded cruise ships parked on the sea, disgorging elderly tourists into Lambton Quay imagine the parody... Oh Welly, you sure turned it on today, and I listened in thrall to talk of our Colonial girl so ahead of her time I found you waiting for me in your dress of words and I took your hand for a brief moment just you and me babe you and me until an elderly tourist offered to take my photo Oh I know you'd love the irony.
Author: Maggie Rainey-Smith
You ask what love isStandard
( I found this prose poem written back in 2018 when our
darling Emma Aroha was born and we were in Seoul soaking up the joy)
It’s the coffee cup beside the phone charger on the floor.
the mobile playing nursery rhymes bolted from above
her hair splayed across the TV remote as she sleeps
a folded clean nappy, discarded singlet, a portable fan
paper covering the fluorescent lighting but not entirely
the white noise and green lights of the air conditioning
water bottles, protein shake, milk powder on the microwave
French, German, all of them eventually abandoned for
breast milk… the sucking reflex as she sleeps beside you
you are together on the foam mattress on the floor
it’s four types of baby carriers and the fact you love
the traditional wrap – just a piece of fabric tied tightly
heartbeat on heartbeat or head against her back
the composting machine with its hungry worms will
eventually eat all your uneaten rice, seaweed, banana
on the fridge is a photo of your Appa on his grandfather’s
knee, looking down on you confirming those cross cultural
genes and a box of grapes like pearls in tissue from your
Korean Halmoni who comes to make seaweed soup for her girl
your Appa’s ripped jeans hang from the door, belt still attached
the white rabbits dangle, and turn. I am sitting in the feeding chair
we purchased for your Omma. I can stretch my legs out full.
I’m on guard, awaiting your awakening, ready to take you from her sleeping arms.
I am your Kiwi Halmoni.
On Saturday, I left home at 7.30 am to drive over the hill to Carterton. The reason for this, was the lure of a free Poetry Workshop and later on, performance by Chris Tse. What’s not to like?
The Poetry Workshop was at the rather flash new Carterton Events Centre (well, it looks very new). We were in the Hurunui o Rangi Room. Rather like a Corporate Boardroom with Chris and his whiteboard at the top table.
One and a half hours to unpick the meaning of two poems and have a go a writing something ourselves (with several song lyric prompts on the whiteboard).
But, first we had to introduce ourselves and tell the group what sparked joy for us, or in us. Of course cliches abound with such a question. One group member had both a mother and a granddaughter named Joy, which was rather special. One woman claimed that joy for her was elusive and she needed to work out how to find it. A dog licking a waking face was another rather lovely image. Grandchildren, the night sky… You get the drift.
We looked at Jenny Bornholdt’s now very famous poem ‘Make Sure’. It is a perfect example of how to undercut, and distill what is for sure, a Kiwi cliché – man lost in the bush – grieving wife talking to the news. The discussion around this poem was interesting because love was the enduring theme in responses to it. The clever final shift of pronoun from you to I in the last line, owning the whole poem. It’s easy to read this poem several times and find new ways to inhabit it. It had an extra resonance with the shadow of Cyclone Gabrielle stalking our thoughts.
We then read a poem by Sam Duckor-Jones ‘Allemande in G by J.S. Bach. I’d read this poem before and to be honest, I’d dismissed it as pretentious modern and who cares. But, when I had it explained to me by Chris and what Sam was doing with musical notes, I finally ‘got it’. No longer pretentious, but clever, ingenious and great fun. Poetry that has constraints is something I admire. The Villanelle, Sestina or even a Sonnet.
The final exercise was to write for about ten minutes (maybe a little longer, but not long) – just the first response without thinking too hard, to prompts from the whiteboard.
Here’s my effort… yet to be tamed.
I didn’t start the fire
Mum did, she sharpened the axe first, in the shed cobwebs overhead, the smell of lawnmower petrol and freshly cut kindling what was she thinking falling for the returned soldier who proposed in the graveyard threatening to kill himself as she scrunches paper into tight balls to build a cushion, allow air in before setting the wood before striking the match before does she hesitate does she wait to strike the match to smell the sulphur sometimes, peeling onions she stuck a struck match in her mouth, evidently folklore has it this will stop you crying
Chris generously gave out pencils at the end of the workshop and I grabbed two – see my photo. He really is an inspirational poet. His journey as a young Chinese Gay man and the story he told us at his performance later in the day…. He talked to his Mum about ‘coming out’ and she said to him ‘you’ll be lonely’…. His reply ‘I’m already lonely’. Wow. Right to the heart. He owns the stage, he owns his poems and he’s generous to boot. After reading several of his own poems, he chose to read some of his favourite poems from other poets he knows. Applause.
A conversation about FormicaStandard
Nelson Arts FestivalStandard
My great honour to be included in the Pukapuka Talks 2022.
I may have posted this poem on my blog before, back in 2019 when I wrote it... but I can't recall... like a lot of disorganised writers, I have poems and stories hidden all over the show on my laptop... undiscoverable to even me... and then sometimes they pop up and say... hey, this one's okay, why don't you read me again. Too, having returned recently from another wonderful time in Seoul with family, to the cooler clime here of Welly and these past few days, endless rain... this morning, the sun is out and I can see every 'glinting thing'.... I walk my granddaughter up the hill to Daycare over grates, cigarette butts past plastic trash bags she finds the asphalt mesmerising, examines every glinting thing with perfect purpose We wave to the lady with the dog wearing boots on all four paws and she stops and waves back people respond to a one year old who cares that much about them and they break into wide happy smiles Later on, I board the bus and become angry at the teenager head down on his phone in the seat for the elderly I shame this young man when someone even older than I am, boards, but all I do is shame myself the old woman doesn’t want this young man’s seat she’d rather stand than lose her dignity to rage At the pedestrian crossing I am the only one fuming as a man in a white sedan edges over the painted lines I swear at him, actually out loud but no one hears or cares least of all him as he roars to the next lights As a visitor in this city I am the elderly anomaly carrying the luggage of my own petty prejudice I’m learning to contain my expectations of others, to tilt my parasol to the sun ride the bus like a local an eye out for the glinting
Fear of flyingStandard
It matters not that I fly a lot that before I had babies, children grandchildren I had no fears None whatsoever but now, and even after deprogramming one lunch hour with a GP who promised it was just a phobia he had me sitting in a make believe cinema watching myself flying and pretending I was also the projectionist it worked for thirteen flights, the trick being to envisage arriving and I did into a snowstorm at Washington DC roll forward and I have family in Seoul and we visit as often as we can to catch those precious moments you never get back but I hate flying so I make peace with God (the one I don’t believe in) on take offs and landings I tell all the people who should know I love them And then I tell myself I’ve had a good life, It’s okay, if I die, although I worry a little about the other passengers (as you do, babies and all) As the plane veers, and the wheels descend there are noises that I can’t account for, I forgive myself and everyone as death is surely imminent but then of course, there’s always the brace position and I know where the exits are and of course, I’d let the woman with her baby go first and perhaps I’ll make the papers as the heroic elderly woman who sacrificed her spot on the escape chute for others, smiling, unafraid calming everyone bang, bump, and even as we hit the tarmac I still worry in case the engines which need to power down, don’t work and we roll forward into Shelley Bay I’m that passenger disembarking whose eyes are so wide open because they never shut for a single minute in case they missed the oxygen mask falling or a seat belt announcement turbulence is greeted with varying degrees of terror and feigned nonchalance… I have been known to grab another passenger to reassure them and they don’t seem to mind some people take drugs they drink and they drink some more, but me I prefer to do this cold turkey upright, terrified, visualising arriving Fear of flying… what me… nothing would keep me from my family
(Waving not Drowning) Have you seen the suited man from Gangnam sitting on the roof of his car in the recent floods? He looks relaxed, scrolling on his phone, even snaps a photo of himself and has become a meme But hey, this is Gangnam we know the car is probably insured fully likely easily replaced As for his clothing… he’ll have a wardrobe full back home way above the water line He’s nonchalant really knows he won’t drown relaxing on the bonnet of his car, a modern man He’s a far cry from the family in the basement in another suburb whose neighbours called for help 4 minutes it took for help to arrive but it was too late, they drowned all three of them No memes, no flash car headlines for sure, but nowhere near as much fun as Mr Gangnam who as it turns out, may be a journalist for Yonhap News… waving not drowning
Well, my first memories are the stucco house opposite the library and the war memorial Our GP had a moustache and the nurse was mother to the cute Burmese boy who was my very first kiss Rolling forward, there is the brute who fitted my first IUD, a Copper 7 he shoved it in I was on the bus before toxic shock set in my knees hammering faster than bus wheels Then there was my GP with the comb-over who was my obstetrician I fell in love with him I wasn’t the only one a girl in the flats two doors down had a baby three weeks earlier We swapped notes about our loves, that of our babies and our comb-over GP who delivered them I can still see the face Of the Matron at St Helens when I told my GP I had used a mirror and what… were those balloons, the bunch of grapes I’d found down there… I’d never heard of piles The matron’s smirk well, it out-smirked any smirk you or I have ever seen but the comb-over smiled The man with the comb-over told me he was the best IUD fitter in town and I believed him, knees up on the bed When he chatted away distracting me and then insisted I had a cup of tea before I got off the bed After my GP with the comb-over left, I inherited a flash-Harry kind of chap who crossed the line He drew me diagrams of how to wipe my bottom properly (I already knew) and remarked on my breasts The size of course, so small and had I breastfed, his eyes wide in amazement when I said yes… But the bit that finally did it, was when he had me almost naked touching my toes, both of us laughing I moved to a new clinic and years later at the same practice, I now have a woman doctor who I totally trust She’s calm, professional, matter of fact, and I think she expects me to take responsibility for my own health which I like So, that’s it really… nothing to see here just a wee summary.
6th Floor, GuroStandard
I’m standing with my back firmly against the fridge holding a 1,500 won weight moving it up and down with my elbow as a hinge Along with this exercise I’m having Korean traditional therapy which includes cupping and acupuncture some little brown pilloules Through the grey filter of a striped blind, I notice red lights on tall buildings warnings for all those jets heading to Incheon Here I am, alone on the 6th Floor but I rush to check those red shining lights and notice everyone has put their rubbish out I’m dressed for bed, my teeth brushed and hopeful face cream massaged in but I whip off my night clothes and dress again I’m in the lift pushing door close holding three bags, two purple and one yellow (that’s for the food scraps) Out I dash, across the crossing, a lonely figure as a green bus hurtles towards me, they don’t usually give way But I make it in the glare of sulphur yellow and some sad neon and the loneliness of a traveller in the big smoke earlier in the day I made vegetarian lasagne for my boy, whose lived away from home forever that’s what mothers do I’m sharing this caring with his wife’s mother the two of us devoted halmoni, bathing those babies, feeding them hugging each other she’s so nimble and young looking and we don’t speak the same language but of course we do …