Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Flash Fiction Dead Space

Dead Space

Catch the boy out there standing like a bird with one foot tucked behind a calf looking at the sea. He isn’t at soccer practice. He isn’t on the scout tramp to Chatham Creek. He isn’t playing Dead Space 2 while Bridgie practices her scales. Up and down, up and down. The boy, Jesse, is allergic to scales and allergic to Bridgie who squeaks like a bird when he interrupts her. Dead Space 2. Necromorphs for god’s sake. I need to concentrate
          But she just squeaks and then she squeals and then Mum comes wiping her hands on a tea-towel, and she wants to know where he got the damn game from. Then it’s all over red rover, as his dad says, and he’s outside, like his dad usually is, smoking, except Jesse’s not smoking because he’s run out of smokes.  
           Catch the boy before he leaves. Not the boy leaving. The father leaving. Country Road bag in hand – Bridgie’s bag for sleepovers. He says to the boy, ‘Bye, Jess’, and he says to the boy, ‘Be good for your Mum.’ 
           And his dad puts down the stupid bag, and the look on his face is that sort of look he gets when he comes home and it’s his birthday and Mum’s made a special dinner. Hopeful. Or something. He blinks too much, thinks Jesse, his breath smells like shit. When his dad hugs him, Jesse puts his foot down so he won’t topple. The scales have stopped. Jesse thinks of Necromorphs. He smells sweat and smokes. That’s how Necromorphs would smell, he thinks. And they’d blink too fast. His father used to play the piano. He bought the piano for Jesse to play but Jesse didn’t want to play. He just didn’t. 

Mary McCallum 

Dead Space isn't a poem, not really, but as Flash Fiction, it's a comely blend of poetry and short fiction. Three hundred words only and a lot of fun to write. More fun to discover my story was placed third in the National Flash Fiction Day Competition, June 22. It came in after the winning story by Frankie McMillan In the nick of time, a deer, and Rebecca Styles' second placed story Parade, and was read at a NZ Society of Authors open mic evening in Wellington last night. 

Congratulations to Frankie and Rebecca and all those short and long-listed. Thanks to Tuesday Poet Michelle Elvy for encouraging me to enter with her fabulous flash fiction facebooking. And thanks to the kind donor who has given some money so the winners get a cash prize - how good is that? 

I decided to enter the competition the evening of the deadline, and had a sentence in my head and went from there. As happens with this sort of approach, I didn't know where I was headed or where the Necromorphs came from (they do exist, in a game called Dead Space - but what are they doing here? and they are so right.) The point of view veers back and forth a bit from the boy to the dad. If I'd had time I would have worked at making it more consistent, but in fact I like the inconsistency and uncertainty now, and it works better with paragraphing, which wasn't in the original - becoming more like a play. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Palmy by Jennifer Compton

Here's a taster of Jennifer Compton's poem Palmy - yes, about Palmerston North - the rest is on the Tuesday Poem hub where I am privileged to be the editor this week.

This used to be all forest, not so long ago, and I could tell by the sorrow
that haunts the wide, flat roads, that seeps out of the sense of openness,
something is missing, something is wrenched askew, as the river runs.
The wind blows through, in rolling gusts, baffled, and almost angry.
The wind is searching for the Papaioea Forest. How beautiful it was.  
Tonight, behind the necklace of glittering lights below, is the darkness
which is the hills. Upon them, when it is light, like many crucifixions,
the wind farm. Then the long, ungainly arms swoop and seem to bless.
I will admit, to you, that I have found Palmerston North disconcerting.

More here at the Tuesday Poem hub. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Ruby

It’s Ed and me today at the end of the seawall
on the way to Lion Rock. We lean on it, feel
the crust of lichen beneath our elbows, watch 

the dogs
running on the shingle beach. Billy’s a softie
for a staffie-cross but he’s pulled  Ed’s arm

from the socket too many times to count. Ruby’s
not a softie, she has eyes like coins, a seal’s coat.
Together they’re the tigers in that story

running till they’re butter. Ed’s talking
about the dances in Limerick and
gets onto how he trod the boards with Harold

Pinter. Ed’s a painter now, or was  his duff
shoulder tells that story. Some days we fall in
with Charlie the blue heeler and his owner

whose name I always forget. Both of them have
a touch of wilderness about them.  Charlie’s
owner’s parents ran the Oasis Motel

in Palmerston North. Colin lived in Palmy, too,
before he moved to Rome to sculpt; his peke 
Andrew is pissing on the wall now and Colin’s

following in his shark tooth hat. He tells a story

about living on Long Island and how, walking
with his bulldog, he was sometimes mistaken

for Truman Capote.  Justine  is blonde and pregnant 
and makes me think of vanilla icecream.
When she hoves into view with slobbering

Aaron and Beagle-eyed Georgie, the men
hold themselves tighter. She’s pretty,
Justine. Her husband’s a musician and

at weekends you see them out and
about. One day
Ed, Charlie’s owner, Justine, Colin and I are

up by the Rec’ in the pingao grass,
and we’re talking baby names while the dogs
churn. Her face is plump and tired, and Justine 

says, 'Ruby, I think,' then louder, 'Ruby’ –
and we stop talking a moment and breathe
in the sea and the sharp grass and the frangipane

scent Justine wears and the must of Colin’s
sheepskin coat and whatever it was Billy rolled
in, and then we laugh, and I mean laugh. The

belly kind that makes it hard to breathe anything
at all. We laugh, Ed, Charlie’s owner, Justine, Colin
and me

because there’s Ruby - over there – sniffing
Charlie’s arse, sleek and black, eyes a-gleam,
nothing vanilla about her, nothing like

ice-cream. Weeks later, by Lion Rock,
Colin catches me up. He’s got some results back.
His blood is revolting, turning on his heart.

I squeeze his hand. He squeezes back, eyes
on the oily sea, the other hand holding a bouquet
of the stiff pale seaweed that washes up

in storms. Some days it’s so luminous here,
it’s like standing inside a shell.

Next time we see Ed, he’s at the corner
of  Nikau and the Promenade waving
and waving with his good arm.  ‘Justine had

her baby! I’ve seen the little mite.’ We
stop and wait. The wind 
getting up. Ed has Billy’s lead tight around

his wrist and pants when he reaches us. He mimes
lifting a pram cover and peering in. ‘Now ask me,’
he says, ‘ask me her name.’ We say all together,

a straggly chorus, ‘What’s her name, Ed?’ What’s
her name, Ed?  says the sea, and Ruby circles
Billy like a tiger, and the gulls ratchet it down to a mew

and everything is one big smile, everything on this
beach, one big ear. ‘Sure as I’m standing
here,’ says Ed, ‘You’ll never guess.’  He heaves Billy

along the path now, a grin like shark’s teeth,
then Charlie shows up, and his owner –
Garwain? – and they want to know too,

and Ed’s having a ball. We’re all having a ball. 

Mary McCallum 

This poem was written very long time ago. Nine years. But I've been redrafting it over the past two months. 

Ed doesn't walk Billy now because he isn't well enough so his wife Patricia does it instead.  We always stop and chat when we see them, but Billy and Ruby are older and greyer and only sniff each other now - no churning. Colin passed away five years ago and his beloved Andrew followed. Garwain, if that was his name, moved away with  Charlie. So, I think, did Justine and her dogs and her Ruby - but I'm not sure about that. I just haven't seen them in a while. I still enjoy my daily walks with my Ruby but it's been a while since it was quite so social and quite so much fun. 

Do get along to the Tuesday Poem hub to read a delightful fragment of Robin Hyde's, editor Janis Freegard.