Welly, Me and Katherine Mansfield


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

You ask what love is


( 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.


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 flying

It matters not that
I fly a lot
that before I had
babies, children
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

Fear of flying… what me…
nothing would keep me
from my family

Gangnam Style

(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

waving not drowning

Doctor, doctor


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, Guro

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





do …

Bang a drum

(after reading 'Small Things like these' by Claire

We've hit Gentle Annie 
passed the pub at Okaramio
and on the left, at Wakapuaka
there’s Sunnybank where
parents left their children 

An oddly named orphanage
manned (ha) by Nuns
childless women in black
habits, scapula, cowls and 
easy access to rosary beads

A cross they could finger
as they scowled at the
babies, whose parents had
either died, got sick or
perhaps were ashamed

but should we judge 
the nuns, in retrospect
or forgive them…
their sometimes cruelty
this question was raised

at book group recently
reading ‘Small Things
Like These' by Claire Keegan 
I thought of my siblings
not even orphans, just

babies really, under
five years of age
one washing their
own shitty pants
in a locked room

where they found
a drum to bang
and they banged
and banged and
banged the drum