Managed Isolation, Day 2

At dinnertime they make
their first mistake:
a chicken salad.

What would Buddha do?
The Welcome Pack says “kia ora”
and “Please be kind to the staff”.

If I send it back, the bird flesh,
soba noodles and soft green beans
will be thrown out, and some

poor kitchen worker
may be disciplined,
or worse, embarrassed.

What would Jacinda Ardern do?
I have no idea, but thinking
of kindness and gratitude

I eat it, and pay with a few
phrases for those who
lived     in order to serve

the twelve floors of inmates
in the Pullman Auckland
tower of luxury detention

with portions of protein.
I eat the chocolate cake too,
asking no further questions.

19 March 2021
Kia ora means “be alive and well”


Windows is shutting down
and grammar are on its last leg
—Clive James

Yesterday. The weather forecast.
A low-pressure system
is trigger widespread showers.

O my English language! You are losing your
inflections. Your peaks and passes, your fells
and dales, your long suffixed and prefixed
conjugations, your ings and ations—
these are my native land,
my forest, its sighing trees,
my home valley, its musical birds,
my village—and you

are being changed. Your strata fracked,
the tops of your ancient hills knocked off
by the careless blades, the need for speed,
of unredacted profit-crazed globalisation—
your streams choked with the turgid sludge
of marketing shite and business jargon …

Okay, my nose wears glasses now,
and I walk the streets with care,
aware of my feet and the endless weight
of the chafing chains of metaphor—
but I never thought that I would ever be
an old woman keening for loss of country.
Yet here I am,

trying to sing in tune
while tune remains,
trying to speak in time

First published in Creatrix 55, December 2021


Train station
Twelve minutes to wait
Five dollars
Plastic wrap
White factory bread
Stiff tomato
Square of solidified cheesepaste

Perforated steel bench
I sat
Unknown language
Stuck-out chubby legs
Small shoes

I turned toward him

He looked into my eyes for half a second
without speaking or moving his face.
His pupils and irises were deep and black.


That was it! I thought. What I’ve been looking for.
In the open dark field of the child’s clean eyes,
the What and Not I saw
was That. And him and all his kind the cells of it.

From A coat of ashes

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