swimswim

Originally written for a CWRT700 portfolio at AUT in 2019. Second part of swim | swimswim.

Elevated

In Honiara, on the hill above Town Ground, at the intersection of Lengakiki Road, Hibiscus Avenue and Mud Lane, there is a complex of expat units and apartments, and that is where my dad has lived for nearly five years.

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swim

Originally written for a CWRT700 portfolio at AUT in 2019. First part of swim | swimswim.

If you are born by the sea, you must be connected with it. If you are born on an isthmus, gentle bays on one coast and pounding surf on the other, you must be twice as driven to the water, a siren call from all sides, called by the waves to strip down and fling yourself in. It is foretold by the geography of your birth. I am an Aucklander. I grew up south, then south east, then a deviation via splintered family to the far-flung west from time to time. I dated a boy from the Shore. I went to school in Epsom. I’ve crawled every inch of this sprawling so-called big little city at some point or other. I have stood on many of its beaches. But I haven’t stepped into the sea at many of them. 

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Endurance

An essay in five parts, originally written for a CWRT700 portfolio at AUT in 2019.

MORPHINE AND KETAMINE

Morphine is used for the relief of moderate to severe pain such as after an injury, or operation or pain caused by a terminal illness such as cancer.” (Health Navigator NZ, n.d.)

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new work – atlas/pantograph punch

Exciting developments in writing life, one of which is a long time coming in a couple of ways. In the more general, longer term way, I FINALLY have a creative piece in a print literary journal. Hurrah! In the specific, shorter term way, I submitted this piece over a year ago, and it was allocated to the second issue of the journal.

But now, it’s out! Issue 2 of Atlas Literary Journal is out, and my piece, ‘Trading Pain’ is in it. It’s about hospital and scary things like emergency surgery and ketamine and nasogastric tubes.

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coriander, basil, corn

The first plant I have ever successfully grown is a small pot of coriander.
I can’t even claim to have grown it, really, just not let it die. It’s in a giant teacup that I inherited when a flatmate four flats ago left to go overseas. I kept fruit in it, but my kitchen is tiny and the teacup was relocated to a bookshelf when a rice cooker took countertop precedence. There were still oranges and kiwifruit in it, and they sat there forgotten, gently moulding.

When I remembered, I put the bowl outside and it’s lived there ever since. The pot of coriander found a home there when I decided to take a punt on a live pottle rather than a sprig sealed in plastic for the same price. Some leaves have turned reddish, then brown, and I’ve plucked them when I remember. But fresh shoots of green appear, with that bright, right flavour, and the inclement Auckland summer showers are a pain for my washing but brilliant for my laissez-faire approach to gardening.

Today, I needed basil, and I brought home a pot that’s the Mediterranean twin of my coriander. We’ll see if this cycle of success can continue.

 

Over the fence, there is corn. Corn, in the middle of a backyard in Auckland. Corn, and a tree of unknown botanical origin, but one that monarch butterflies like to cling to in autumn. On one windy, terrifically unpleasant day, there was an orange and black blur and then a monarch perched on the boughs as they were buffeted in the the wind. Clinging on, holding tight and waiting for the storm to be over. There is a tree that bears fruit that I don’t recognise. There are sometimes tūī, which make me feel like maybe I could be back in Wellington, where the central suburbs are more rife with beautiful wildlife. This little pocket of Grey Lynn, near the park, is an anomaly for Auckland. I come from here, but maybe the emphasis should be on the ‘from’. The beaches, yes, the pōhutukawa, the jobs. But the people, the soul, the sparkle – it’s empty. Auckland doesn’t feel like anything, there’s no sense of collective spirit. Take me back to Wellington, where community feels real and the culture is more confident.

 

Tomorrow I start a new job. While there are always numerous factors that played into the decision to take it, many of them come down to a desire to both push myself and alleviate life and financial stress. Once that burden is taken away, I’m hoping I have the spare ergs at the end of each day to sit and write. Even if it’s just a blog entry prattling away about coriander and basil and my disdain for Auckland.

 

I don’t really follow sport, and neither does my sister, but once, our dad was watching a cricket game and she was around. ‘That’s Corey Anderson,’ Dad said of one player.

‘Corey Anderson?’ Merf asked. ‘Also known as Cilantro Kid?’

Salt Lick

last time
all of us
a smaller, self-contained, of the moment
kind of all of us
we sat at the water
she went into the ocean
her feet cautious then
enraptured
the elongated vowels of a toddler
whose life is
overwhelming/exciting/in danger
pick one
she’s not sure herself
trying to stamp down
the water as it licks her ankles
swift kicks and sun hats
and sandals up on the sand

we watched and laughed and talked and said
we’ll keep in touch

Hospital haiku. December 4–8.

I trim the stems of
hospital tulips with my
ostomy scissors

Lounging
Medically important lounging photo by Uther ‘Prolific Playwright/Published Poet’ Dean.

 

My plans to blog on the daily were slightly messed around by ill health. After several days in a row of leaving work early due to feeling rather deathly, I finally relented and went into ED on Friday night, thinking that they would give me some fluids and maybe some codeine and send me on my way. But now it’s Monday afternoon and I only just got home a few hours ago.

So to make up for the days lost to a phone-only internet void (and, you know, being hospital-level unwell), here is a selection of random, occasionally drug addled, haiku/short poetry from those lost days.

HOSPITAL HAIKU

I trim the stems of
hospital tulips with my
ostomy scissors

His fingers fly
Writing; counting syllables
Of five, seven, five

The nurse’s glove broke
Latex gave way to warm flesh
Precious skin contact

Mail, Facebook, Twitter
Textual interactions
Words to keep afloat

Tonight at midnight
Lost in an internet blur
I may read Buzzfeed

Arms take turns itching
Fingers one-by-one on fire
Then last are the shins

Pillows that whistle
Every time you try to
Gently rest your head

White blankets and sheets
Lightly patterned white/blue gowns
Pale ghosts at night

I would try to sleep
But I have already and
The steroids say no.

Now waiting, waiting
Free me to the outside world
It’s almost sunny

Orange juice is a
Generous term for this stuff.

get off my lawn

the curious circumstances
where the cool kids across the way
off-season students
play music from their
kindergarten days
and the appropriateness
(for the unwilling listener)
that the closing track of the evening
is ‘suicidal girls’
because of the way that
i would do truly anything
to get that racket gone
their speakers and voices both

2009

how 2009 began. part i.

In honour of the release of Emilyn Brodsky’s new album, here is a bit of a recollection of the first time I saw her/heard of her. Which was also the first time I ever went to New York. And the first time that I saw Amanda Palmer.

It’s one of those nights that isn’t easily forgotten. This is the lead-up.

On the first night that I ever spent in New York, I went to a show.

It was January – only just. Patti Smith wrapped up her Bowery Ballroom gig to see in the new year, and then, at 2am, or thereabouts, Amanda Palmer was to perform.

I’d been in Montreal all of four days, but more than a month in advance, this show had been announced, and with the reckless abandon of an eighteen year old on their first adventure, I decided that I was going to take the train from Montreal to New York City to see this gig.

It could be the only chance I get to see Amanda while I’m in North America, I reasoned. It’ll be completely worth it.

It’s ten hours on the Amtrak Adirondack line between Montreal and NYC. I was a fresh-faced wee gal, fed on police procedurals and gritty dramas. Convinced that carrying a bag through New York at night was unsafe, I decided that my best bet was to wear my tiny daypack underneath my coat. Which meant minimal items could be packed. I brought a map, my wallet and my phone, along with a Gossip Girl novel that I bought at a second-hand bookstore in Le Village.

It was probably an attempt at NYC wannabe-hipster irony. I read the whole thing before we got to Albany. I hadn’t thought to bring food, or to organise food, for that matter – apart from a Red Bull for the morning I left. I was terrified that I would miss my train. Anna gave me some sesame snaps with Polish writing on the label, which were the only thing I ate between the morning of the 31st and 8am at Penn Station the next morning.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

It’s a tricky thing, an ultra-late gig away from home. It seemed pointless to organise a hostel room, I told myself – I would only be there for an hour or two after the concert wrapped up. I had twelve hours in New York, all of them dark, and my only place to go was the Bowery Ballroom.

Manhattan can be overwhelming to the first time observer. While the streets may be numbered in places, there are pockets where they get more creative and criss-crossed and generally turn into a bit of a mystery. I had looked into tips regarding travel around New York (given my stance on bag-wearing, it will not surprise you to know that I was terrified of catching the subway). I knew that I was supposed to state the cross-streets, not the specific address. Bowery and Delancey, Bowery and Delancey. It was my mantra, a ballpoint scrawl on my hand.

My plan was as follows: Arrive in New York. Go to Times Square, because that’s where people go for midnight at New Years, right? Loiter around, watch the ball drop, then catch a cab down to the Bowery Ballroom and wait in anticipation.

Despite my taxi-etiquette research, I hadn’t thought to look into the whole Times Square situation. So I didn’t know that people queue up from three-ish to get into the square proper. And everyone else just crowds around barricades, hoping to catch a flash of pixelated fireworks on an electronic billboard.

So I found myself walking up and down Avenue of the Americas, trying to pass the time. I got caught in one of the peering crowds more than once, but wriggled my way out of them once moderate claustrophobia started to set in. I worried that the bare ground was going to wear away the soles on my new snow boots. When 0000h EST hit, I saw fake sparkles and heard the roar of the crowd around me. As the square started to clear, I wandered into it, to get a feel for what was going on, and saw my first Broadway signpost. The ground was covered with confetti and crushed cups, and police were trying to usher people out.

Satisfied that I had survived to tell the tale, I headed back to the streets that were still open to vehicle traffic. All cabs seemed to be occupied, but finally I could see one that was waiting for a desperate patron. His window was down. ‘Bowery and Delancey?’ I asked. I shouldn’t have phrased it as a question. He shook his head, and drove off.

Slightly shocked and shaken, I stepped back. Another cab was pulled up further along the road. ‘I’m going to Bowery and Delancey.’

‘Only do numbered streets.’ He wound up his window. I bit my lip, and started to have an internal meltdown. Cabs were out of the question here, clearly. Maybe if I headed towards the venue, got myself a little closer, I would be able to successfully convince one to take me the rest of the way.

I had in my head some sort of strange inverted perception of Manhattan. Maybe it was too much Ancient History, and the whole Lower Egypt in the North, Upper Egypt in the South thing, but I had convinced myself that the higher the street numbers went, the closer I was to downtown. Remember that my map was in my backpack, which was underneath my coat.

Given this lapse in geographical ability, it’s a goddamn miracle that I started walking the right way. I popped into a dairy (a corner store, really – what a few months later I would know was locally really a bodega) and asked if they had a map. I was told no. I willed myself not to cry as I went back out into the street, and kept walking in the direction that I hoped was the right way.

A few blocks later – and a few leering interactions with celebrating New Yorkers later – I went into another shop, this time planning to buy a drink in a glass bottle. So that I could rehydrate myself (after my sesame snap diet of the day) and have a potential weapon if I felt threatened. Fortunately, I never had to use my Orangina bottle of doom.

Up to this point, I hadn’t been replying to anyone who spoke to me or wished me Happy New Year! as they passed me on the street. But this store was well-lit and there was a man behind the counter, so when another customer said ‘Happy new year!’ to me, I echoed it.

‘You heading home? We’re just going home from a party.’

‘I’m going to a gig, actually.’

‘Oh yeah? Where?’

‘The Bowery Ballroom?’

He nodded approvingly. ‘Have you got a ride outside waiting?’

I shrugged. ‘Uh, I’m walking.’

He waved a hand. ‘No way! Me and my boys’ll give you a lift! Just wait here – what was your name?’

‘Elizabeth,’ I told him, my go to alias in stressful situations.

‘I’ll just go check, man.’

He left the store and crossed the road, disappearing into the dark towards wherever his ‘boys’ were parked. I was pretty sure that this was not a situation I was game to get myself into. So I left, and saw a cab across the road. It looked as though the Hassidic Jewish man crossing the road was heading for it, so I dashed out quickly, telling myself that I was less safe than he was. ‘Bowery and Delancey?’

He nodded, though grumbled ‘but we’ll have to turn around,’ as I got in. ‘And my meter’s broken, so it’ll just have to be twenty bucks.’

That seemed like a fair sum in exchange for my getting to the gig without anything terrible happening to me. I agreed. He dropped me on The Bowery, right by Delancey, and I thanked him profusely as I handed over the required bill.

It took a moment to get my bearings, especially as a bunch of high-heeled girls tottered into the cab that I’d just vacated. But running down past one of the seedy-looking corners of the intersection was a queue. For something. And a beautiful hunch told me that that was where my people were.

‘Is this the queue for Amanda Palmer?’ I asked, shy and foreign. There was a guy and a girl at the back of the line.

They nodded.

I nodded, comprehension and relief.