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

Things (2019)

Coffee three dollars sixty while
my washing’s in the laundromat
Six dollars a wash plus one
for a plastic tub of detergent
We recycle them, the attendant proclaims

The washer can do nine kilos
but I don’t own three weeks’
worth of clothes, only one
I need my dressy tops next week
Working four mornings, smart casual

Kathy, whose house I’m living in,
has sold her washing machine
She’s building a place in a new
subdivision, wants a washer-dryer
And those are expensive, she says

I carry my wet things back to her house,
hang them on the drooping Foldaline
There’s plenty of sun, as usual
Crossing the highway on the footbridge
I can see a fire on the horizon

When I was working in China
parcels kept arriving at the office
If it’s useful and cheap,
said our American,
I’ll buy it

His favourite pastime was Taobao
One time he ordered a gadget
to hang up under a shelf
to facilitate pulling out tissues
from their plastic packets

When his landlord wanted him out
he took several days to move
Carried his possessions bag by bag across the streets
Chelsea would have helped you, I said
She has a car

Today I could have knocked on a door
and asked to borrow a washer
I might have been offered tea,
a seat at the kitchen table,
maybe even a phone number

Kathy’s Hyundai pulls in at five
She dumps her bag of reports and flops
on the pale grey leather
of her new bespoke sofa
I get so tired, she says

I light the gas, steam rice,
tofu, vegetables, hand her a plate
I sit with her watching
Antiques Roadshow, its hopefuls and experts
We marvel at all the intricate things

the Victorians and Edwardians bequeathed
If I had that, I say, I could sell it
and spend the money on a holiday
or stay at home and make nothing
but art for a year

or donate the cash to the Climate Council
or Extinction Rebellion, or the Carbon
Neutral Charitable Foundation, who
are bravely planting native trees,
trying to cool things down

First published in Creatrix 51, December 2020

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