Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Poem: To Say

Emma McCleary, <i>First Flutter</i>, Woodcut, hand stitching and pencil on 300 x 300 mm paper, from an edition of 9, 2009. NZ$310 incl GST.

the first flutter of fledgling on the grass -
feathers new, askew, softly now,
ungainly thing

the first flutter of pencil on the page, to say
what the fledgling asks to be said, softly
now, ungainly thing

the first flutter of knife on wood, to say
what the fledgling asks to be said, softly
now, ungainly thing

the first flutter of needle on linen, to say
what the fledgling asks to be said, softly
now, ungainly thing

the first flutter of fledgling on the grass, ungainly - soon
to be gainly - thing, feathers new, askew, softly
now, so says the fledgling

                                                     mary mccallum

As part of the Tuesday Poem Secret Santa this week I am paired with Emma McCleary who is the webmaster for Booksellers New Zealand. A poet appreciator rather than a poet herself, Emma posts work by NZ poets on the website every Tuesday. So this Tuesday, in our Secret Santa swop, Emma is posting a poem of mine - and I have no idea which one it will be... (exciting!)

For my side of the bargain, I decided that rather than use one of the poems by NZers Emma has stashed away for her website, I would use something of Emma's. She is a wonderful printmaker and craftswoman, so I decided to use one of her prints here - and write a poem off the back of it.

Like Emma, I am very partial to birds, and with the birds nests full of cheeping young at the moment, and fledglings hopping in an ungainly fashion through the undergrowth (the word 'fledgling' alone is so evocative, and such mouth-filler),  I couldn't go past Emma's print 'First Flutter' pictured above and available to buy at Solander Gallery. The poem that goes with it is about art and how we try in our various media - Emma and I and others - to evoke that thing we see, or at least the thisness of the thing. But how any evocation is only ever that, and not the real thing at all.

A great way to end the Tuesday Poem year. For more Tuesday Poems go here or click on the quill in the sidebar. James Brown is featured at the hub and then there are 30 poets from all over with poems on offer....

Merry Christmas to you Emma and all the other Tuesday Poets and all my loyal blog readers. See you again in 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Notorious Veins

thing clapp
-ing its
hands see

the small
screen see
it pulses
it claps
its ti
-ny hands

like nost-
rils go in

no, not a
baby, love,
not hands
this is

a beating


he says the buzzer whoops like a small siren and then there’s the running and the voices crying out like they do in a rugby match ‘come on, Tony, you can do it’, then something slapping on skin and the distant sound of clapping ‘Tony, come on’


he says
when it’s quiet
the nurse comes and sits 
in the chair by his bed
Beth in pink fimo on her
chest, and
she slips off her shoe
and rubs the ball of her
bad foot


one night she talks about how the chopper
brought Tony in with his cap still on his head,
and when she took it off he’d blinked so fast
she thought he would never stop

he’d wanted to talk about the two women he loved
and how neither of them knew,
and two sons that disappointed,
and his one wish that he’d taken up flying

I wanted to fly too, my father says
he said to Beth, and he told her about sitting
all the exams but how he was too tall
for the plane so he had to go to Africa


another night, he describes the smell of Erinmore Flake
when he opened the tin: all honey and smokey – taking
that first fingerful – packing it into the bowl of his pipe


other facts he shares while Beth kneads her foot:

the dark high ceilings of the kafenion off Syndagma Square
where his father played cards, the Greek record my mother
was playing when they first met, the children and grandchildren:
their names, the colour of their hair

lastly, his disappointing veins – the way they refuse
to yield blood no matter who tries


(I know none of this for a fact, I’m only guessing)


we see Beth with her trolley:  
she walks with us to my father’s
cubicle – you must be Mary
the writer, she says, and this
is your daughter, Isabel

when we reach the bed,
the fimo badge heaves
on the mountainous bosom,
and she takes his arm

with its notorious veins, and slips
in the needle no trouble at all –
I know you, her fingers say,
I know the


Mary McCallum

For more Tuesday Poems click on the quill in the sidebar. The hub poem is Alistair Te Ariki Campbell's To Stuart chosen by editor Robert Sullivan. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday Poem: The Wahine

Kay McCormick
Photo acknowledged to the Dominion and Sunday Times newspapers.
Published on The Wahine website

The Wahine
Sunk by a storm, April 1968

walking alone you hear all of it
every power pole a-crackle with cicadas,
the sea rattling stones in raw hands,
weatherboard houses crying rust, a dog
hoarse at the end of its chain, the groaning
of a half-built boat,
                              where the gate is
where the sealed road
ends, where the coarse hills fall to their
knees, where the sky pours into a bay as
deep as houses, where we stopped
once to see the savaged sheep, marvelled
at the blood on the white wool, the twist
of its neck, where there’s the pull and push
of the Strait and the rocks bend dumbly to
take it, in the small suck between pull and
push –  

the sound of the truck that day
labouring on the shingle

the loose shoe falling

                                          Mary McCallum

Photo caption: 'Steward Frank Hitchens lies shoe-less and unconscious on the back of a Landrover making its way north along the Pencarrow road, his legs hanging over the rear of the vehicle... Burdan's Gate, where ambulances were parked and waiting, is about a kilometre ahead. Note the condition of the road. Survivors on foot, most without shoes, had to walk for miles through rock debris washed down from the hills by the rain and thrown up by the seas.' [Thanks to the Wahine website for this.]

Frank Hitchens was one of the lucky ones. In his story on The Wahine website, (scroll down), he notes that 47 of the 223 people thrown up on the rocks and beaches along this coastline were killed. 

I walk this road regularly as I live nearby. My brother turned one the day before the storm that claimed the Wahine. I was at school, we were sent home. My father was a radio and TV reporter so he spent the day reporting on events. A friend, Steve, broke through the police cordon and ran to help the people coming ashore. He saved lives. 

The day the Wahine went down, is one of those days in Wellington where you know exactly what you were doing. 

Do visit the Tuesday Poem hub for a fabulous poem about dance written by Jo Thorpe,  and links, via the live blog roll, to a stack more Tuesday Poems.