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This Saturday you’re behind the counter

in the work coat you want to shed

like an unwanted skin at the end of your shift.

There’s the 5 o’clock rush to get through

and you don’t want to hear how Michael on bags

got an extra shift at Subway to save for his car.

Your white name tag lets the customers think

they can call you by your name;

the logo on your chest promises a New World

but little was gained from the shelvers’ lockout.

What’s left after the prepaid’s paid for

you’ll put to a silver Playboy necklace

with an imitation diamond eye, or

a pair of Nike trainers, each whoosh

a tick for a Vietnamese child’s

fourteen hour day. Last week Tala

gave you Resurrection and you copied

Tupac Shakur’s name into your senior

social studies notebook in the style

of a typeface owned by the Sony corporation.

You hand back the man’s Flybuy card, try

not to frown as he fumes when the EFTPOS

doesn’t take his pin. On your inside

left thigh there’s a tattoo of the Vietnamese

character for love you let no-one but Tala

see. You got the idea from Angelina Jolie

now it has become your own and beneath black

polyester pants the sigil warms you;

keeps you real.

Harvey says:

I wrote this in 2006 feeling frustrated by the dispute between Progressive Enterprises ( a massive company) and supermarket workers. The claims of the workers seemed to me to be so reasonable and yet it resulted in a strike and lock-out. It was published in the USA in Richard Smyth’s journal Albatross. I spent a while on this one—I was aiming for a rough or punky edge to the poem which hopefully adds to the music rather than lessens it. Earlier this year I was using Webcrawler for a week—breaking the Google habit—and being self-engrossed (and wondering which libraries had bought our Asperger book) I ’web-crawled’ myself and found that the poem had been copied and attributed to me on Three Quarks Daily. I was pleased that they had liked the poem enough to copy it but felt that it would have been nice for them to let me know!

Moonshot

Harvey Molloy was born in Oldham, England and emigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He studied English at Victoria University, Massey University, and the University of Florida where he completed a doctorate. He worked as a writer/information architect during the ’90s before taking a teaching position at the National University of Singapore. He now lives in Wellington where he teaches English and Drama at Porirua College. Harvey is a rising star in Wellington’s poetry firmament. His poems have appeared in NZ Listener, JAAM and Takahe, and he is a previous winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international poetry award. This poem comes from his first book Moonshot, published by Steele Roberts.

I love the way Harvey isn’t afraid to get a little nasty and downbeat, it shows off his inner punk. The supermarket workers don’t get off lightly either, everyone’s material obsessions pale against “each whoosh / a tick for a Vietnamese child’s / fourteen hour day”.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.


Celebrating Selina’s recent win with my first multimedia Tuesday Poem! From her first book Fast Talking PI, published by AUP.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

Ever since the self-defence lessons,

when I was twelve, when we were told

always to appear as big as possible

so from a distance we seemed male,

I’ve drawn myself up in the dark.

 

Last night,

at the end of the alley,

a silhouette walked,

short and broad

with a male gait.

 

My Philosophy of Aesthetics lecturer once said

she found androgynous people sublime.

Because of the double-take you must make,

the awe of not knowing.

We’d been talking about sunsets until then.

 

I wasn’t afraid of the figure —

light bulbs glowed through

the pittosporum hedges.

But it walked so slowly I couldn’t say

if it was coming towards me or going away.

 

Propaganda Poster Girl

From The Propaganda Poster Girl, published by VUP.

This is the opening poem of Amy’s first book. There are re-occuring images throughout the whole collection that are disturbing, the threat of danger, which this poem illustrates. I really like the way this poem ends. We never find out the gender of the figure or if anything happened or even which direction he/she was walking in. There is just the menace and the illusion.

Amy Brown was born in 1984 and grew up in Hastings before moving to Wellington to study English literature and philosophy at Victoria University. She taught English and travelled for six months in South East Asia in 2005, and has subsequently completed an MA in creative writing, for which she won the Biggs Prize for Poetry, and a first class honours degree in English literature. She is books and creative writing editor of online arts journal The Lumière Reader, and occasional book reviewer for the NZ Listener. Her poetry has published in Sport, Turbine, Snorkel, the Listener, Landfall and Hue & Cry.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem blog.

This week’s poem needs to be displayed as a pdf, which won’t fit on this page. I’m dashing off to work and don’t have time to fix it up, eek! But you can read it over at Show Your Workings.

Johanna lives in Palmerston North with her partner and 13-month-old son, Lennox. She has published

two books, A long girl ago (VUP) (Shortlisted for the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards) and

Oh My God I’m Flying (Pemmican Press). She teaches creative writing at Massey University and

College Street Normal School.

Jo says:

This poem was written a long time ago–perhaps a year and a half ago–and I resurrected it as a result

of the wonderful Tuesday Night Poetry Club at Barista Cafe on George Street founded by current Massey

Writer-In-Residence, Jennifer Compton. Jen suggested that I “go hard out” and play around with fonts,

and just have a whole lot of fun with the poem. She also psychoanalised the poem (me?), and this is what

what she said (in brief): “You lacerate yourself. You want to compete, but you beat yourself up about it.”

Joan Fleming from the LUMIERE READER:

The deliberate disorientations in this collection are reined in by its emotional earnestness. Aitchison’s lively experimentations step outside the parameters set up by much contemporary, lyric New Zealand poetry – and that’s a breath of sea air.

Fore more Tuesday Poems visit the Tuesday Poem site.

This Tuesday poem is an often quoted one but for good reason. I was given a copy of these revisions stages of the poem at a workshop I did years ago and they really brought home what the art of revision was all about.

Here is an early draft

And then a revision

and then the final version

You can see other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

(cross posted to Show Your Workings)

How he found her


He tells the legend

again, how they met

over the varsity

dissection table.

Did their hands touch?

Did he admire her

frown of concentration?

Did she call him

a buffoon, even then?

When did he know?

As he watched intently

her small fingers

peeled back the skin

and pinned it down,

exposing the muscle layer

then deeper to the organs,

pulling them out –

laying them on the table.

Go here for more Tuesday Poems.

(cross posted to Show Your Workings)

(cross-posted to showyourworkings)

1.

The people who lived here before us

also loved these high mountain meadows on summer mornings.

They made their way up here in easy stages

when heat began to dry the valleys out,

following the berry harvest probably and the pine buds:

climbing and making camp and gathering,

then breaking camp and climbing and making camp and gathering.

A few miles a day. They sent out the children

to dig up bulbs of the mariposa lilies that they liked to roast

at night by the fire where they sat talking about how this year

was different from last year. Told stories,

knew where they were on earth from the names,

owl moon, bear moon, gooseberry moon.

2.

Jaime de Angulo (1934) was talking to a Channel Island Indian

in a Santa Barbara bar. You tell me how your people said

the world was made. Well, the guy said, Coyote was on the mountain

and he had to pee. Wait a minute, Jaime said,

I was talking to a Pomo the other day and he said

Red Fox made the world. They say Red Fox, the guy shrugged,

we say Coyote. So, he had to pee

and he didn’t want to drown anybody, so he turned toward the place

where the ocean would be. Wait a minute, Jaime said,

if there were no people yet, how could he drown anybody?

The Channelleño got a funny look on his face. You know,

he said, when I was a kid, I wondered about that,

and I asked my father. We were living up toward Santa Ynez.

He was sitting on a bench in the yard shaving down fence posts

with an ax, and I said, how come Coyote was worried about people

when he had to pee and there were no people? The guy laughed.

And my old man looked up at me with this funny smile

and said, You know, when I was a kid, I wondered about that.

3.

Thinking about that story just now, early morning heat,

first day in the mountains, I remembered stories about sick Indians

and—in the same thought—standing on the free throw line.

St. Raphael’s parish, where the northern-most of the missions

had been, was founded as a hospital, was named for the angel

in the scriptures who healed the blind man with a fish

he laid across his eyes.—I wouldn’t mind being that age again,

hearing those stories, eyes turned upward toward the young nun

in her white, fresh-smelling, immaculately laundered robes.—

The Franciscan priests who brought their faith in God

across the Atlantic, brought with the baroque statues and metalwork crosses

and elaborately embroidered cloaks, influenza and syphilis and the coughing disease.

Which is why we settled an almost empty California.

There were drawings in the mission museum of the long, dark wards

full of small brown people, wasted, coughing into blankets,

the saintly Franciscan fathers moving patiently among them.

It would, Sister Marietta said, have broken your hearts to see it.

They meant so well, she said, and such a terrible thing

came here with their love. And I remembered how I hated it

after school—because I loved basketball practice more than anything

on earth—that I never knew if my mother was going to show up

well into one of those weeks of drinking she disappeared into,

and humiliate me in front of my classmates with her bright, confident eyes,

and slurred, though carefully pronounced words, and the appalling

impromptu sets of mismatched clothes she was given to

when she had the dim idea of making a good impression in that state.

Sometimes from the gym floor with its sweet, heady smell of varnish

I’d see her in the entryway looking for me, and I’d bounce

the ball two or three times, study the orange rim as if it were,

which it was, the true level of the world, the one sure thing

the power in my hands could summon. I’d bounce the ball

once more, feel the grain of the leather in my fingertips and shoot.

It was a perfect thing; it was almost like killing her.

4.

When we say “mother” in poems,

we usually mean some woman in her late twenties

or early thirties trying to raise a child.

We use this particular noun

to secure the pathos of the child’s point of view

and to hold her responsible.

5.

If you’re afraid now?

Fear is a teacher.

Sometimes you thought that

Nothing could reach her,

Nothing can reach you.

Wouldn’t you rather

Sit by the river, sit

On the dead bank,

Deader than winter,

Where all the roots gape?

6.

This morning in the early sun,

steam rising from the pond the color of smoky topaz,

a pair of delicate, copper-red, needle-fine insects

are mating in the unopened crown of a Shasta daisy

just outside your door. The green flowerheads look like wombs

or the upright, supplicant bulbs of a vegetal pre-erection.

The insect lovers seem to be transferring the cosmos into each other

by attaching at the tail, holding utterly still, and quivering intently.

I think (on what evidence?) that they are different from us.

That they mate and are done with mating.

They don’t carry all this half-mated longing up out of childhood

and then go looking for it everywhere.

And so, I think, they can’t wound each other the way we do.

They don’t go through life dizzy or groggy with their hunger,

kill with it, smear it on everything, though it is perhaps also true

that nothing happens to them quite like what happens to us

when the blue-backed swallow dips swiftly toward the green pond

and the pond’s green-and-blue reflected swallow marries it a moment

in the reflected sky and the heart goes out to the end of the rope

it has been throwing into abyss after abyss, and a singing shimmers

from every color the morning has risen into.

My insect instructors have stilled, they are probably stuck together

in some bliss and minute pulse of after-longing

evolution worked out to suck the last juice of the world

into the receiver body. They can’t separate probably

until it is done.

In this poem Hass has so much going on – the church and Franciscan monks alongside the Native American myths and then he leaps to his mother, the drunk, his creator.

They meant so well, she said, and such a terrible thing

came here with their love. And I remembered how I hated it

after school – because I loved basketball practise more than

anything

on earth – that I never knew if my mother was going to show up… (p8)

This is so clever. Firstly he is using the Franciscan monks and the diseases they unwittingly brought with them as a metaphor for his mother’s destructive love. Secondly he is making connections between his own creator (his mother) and Coyote not wanting to drown people in piss. And then there are the line breaks! Meaning well becomes a terrible thing. He hates ‘their love’ and he loves basketball more than perhaps his mother.

Study the orange rim as if it were,

which it was, the true level of the world, the one sure thing

the power of my hands could summon. I’d bounce the ball

once more, feel the grain of the leather in my fingertips and shoot.

(p9)

I just find this astounding every time I read it. Again, the line breaks and then shooting his mother along with the ball. He has such a light touch, yet it is unflinching. He manages the whole Sharon Olds Love/Hate thing but with even more finesse and layers.

You can read Robert Haas’ Poets.org profile here and more of his poems.

Robert Hass, “Dragonflies Mating” from Sun Under Wood. Copyright © 1996 by Robert Hass.