the karaka tree

the karaka tree was full of berries
we couldn’t eat them / orange and hard
tiny cherries of another time
crushed them between our fingers
and rubbed into the grass
I scared myself into scalding
hot water / the only way to be sure
that I would bite my nails
chew a knuckle bored in the boughs
die a death of karaka-stained teeth
a small blonde body in the jonquils

distance

Some side effects are not known until they are experienced; nobody keeps a record, because the list would be too long. The side effects of distance present themselves to the individual as time goes by, and all cases are different.

I sat in Civic Square, after everything was established as being ‘okay’. For the time being. I walked behind a tourist family who chattered away, wondering at their whereabouts. The mother noticed the gulls padding around, screeching at one another, and commented that they must be back near the sea.

They were, of course, and yet all I could think about was seeing a lone seagull in Montreal, several months into my time there. Montreal is on an island, but it’s a long way from the sea. It was a moment not unlike the first rainfall that I experienced while there (rain! this is so exciting! it’s warm enough to RAIN!), but a little more emotionally fraught.

Homesickness is a bitch.

But this isn’t about homesickness, not exactly. It’s about difficulty, it’s about frustration, it’s about being in the wrong place – or someone else being in the wrong place, at least. It’s about distance.

I have already written here about how my dad is in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands. Fortunately, it has been a milder couple of weeks for them since the floods and storms and earthquakes of earlier this month. But the worry still exists – the thought that something even more dire could yet happen, while I sit in my windswept but mostly safe house on a hill in this strange little corner of the world I call home.

Then, closer to ‘home,’ yet still far away, Auckland looms to the north. Last night, I forgot to turn off my alarm, and so I woke up earlier than I meant to. In scrabbling to turn the sound off, I saw missed calls, texts. And so, I found out, seven-ish hours after the fact, that my mum had had a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital, and was still there.

Things like that will really reinforce the distance.

She was discharged late this morning, and I had just gotten off the phone to her when I sat down in Civic Square. I accidentally dropped a bit of my sandwich, and was inundated by gulls and pigeons. After the initial furore had died down, I watched them wait in hope, a couple of them clearly in positions of authority as they puffed themselves up and marched towards others, undeserving of this chance at scraps. I went to the library, I went to work, my head trying desperately to keep everything level. We drank gin and tonics at the end of the day, and I caught the bus home, everything still churning, and all sorts of write this down! ideas came and went, but this one was the most obvious one to stick with.

And so here it is. Distance.

held

i meant to find some comfort in the keyboard, finding myself awake later than i should
borderline hyperventilation, reliving moments best left to the past, ill-chosen reminders
for every word of reassurance, this too shall pass, you are so strong
once in a while the breakdown, the relinquishing of control to that baser part
known for its lingering, its fears, its dread – it descends and the wind outside will not dislodge it
the rise and fall, lost in the trough where bad dreams feed and breed
the but, the every but that comes to mind
so easily shot down, words are wind, since this is some strange fantasy after all
alms given in casual words
he told me i lacked empathy, smug and meditative
i told him empathy is why i’m still here

sometimes my illness makes me feel strong
sometimes i tell myself that it is what has led me to this place
that it is no bad thing to have your path drawn in strange ways
better sense tells me that it was not health that drove me this way
in goals and in dreams
but it is what i owe my unhappiness to
directly, indirectly, every day, looking at scars
a constant thrum of malcontent
no end in sight, just a lifetime of people telling me
how strong, how brave, how inspirational
and waiting for the next drug or op
i do not want sympathy
i just want to be better
i want to have energy so that i may be able to live
i want to not live in fear, or less of it at least
i want to not have to use this page
as a diary or a one-sided counsel
i just want to be better.

une année sans lumière?

I should be happy.

In the sun, on the street, behind and between pages, there are moments, but they come and go and I have no control over it. Every night, getting into bed, clambering back out to take the little white pill that is supposed to make everything okay. But the pill is to the body like I am to this city, and we both rattle around in this space, not quite sure what we’re doing, not quite succeeding at whatever it is we set out to do.

I feel like I exist in class, at work and at home. That’s it. I have never needed constant social interaction, but to have nothing beyond those three spheres is difficult. The time when I am ‘free’ from academic and work commitments is spent recuperating from life, trying to hold onto this fragile thread of adequate health that I’m depending on. Knowing that I can go (and have gone) weeks, months, without physical human contact is overwhelmingly soul destroying. Nobody to talk to about feeling down, nobody who I can break down in front of and not worry about being judged.

The two months (ish) that I had before I moved down here were the most painful I’ve had. November was the worst I have ever felt in my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I thought I had some certainty, at least in being loved, even if I wasn’t sure what I was working towards in any other facet of my life. Now I am alone, and I am working towards a life in an industry with an unknown future.

The worst part is, that half of it is beautiful. Wellington is wonderful, as a city, and some of the people in it are fantastic, but there are few things more difficult than establishing close friendships from the ground up. My classes are great, the projects I will be working on are brilliant, and my job is the bookstore dream. I have met people from all over the book world, and it has been thrilling – but after every class, every event, every shift, I get on the 14 bus, and go home. The internet, a book, a few notebook scribbles, and bed.

I drink too much coffee. I drink coffee, and then my insides twist and wrench and ache. But I’m tired, because I’m sick, so I need the energy. Hell of a vicious cycle. I eat fruit, because I’m sick of eating junk, and then it hurts all the more. I should be eating low-residue, because everything has fallen to pieces, but it takes a lot of self-control to do that, and when there’s a high chance I’ll be in pain anyway, why would I bother? Like right now. I haven’t eaten anything typically uncooperative, but waves of pain still come. So the tramadol comes out, as do the tears of frustration and pain.

I want to be happy. I know that I have ups and downs even when things are ‘good’, but being lonely drags the downs deeper, and keeps them there. I want someone to cuddle me and tell me my hair smells good. I want to have people to hug hello and goodbye. I want to have stories to write that don’t all peter out because the protagonists are either trapped in a room and it depresses me, or their lives are more cheerful than mine and I find myself jealous of my own creations. It’s easier to sit, watch, occasionally read. Trawl through the internet in the hopes of finding some spark of inspiration or light, or just to pass the time until sleep or the final hope of interaction for the night has been extinguished.

I write this because it is all that I can do. Words are all that I have, because I don’t want to rely on my unpredictable emotions anymore, worrying that the wrong/right Nick Cave song will come on at work and be an emotional trigger, because it represents when Things Were Good. I don’t need to have exactly what I had before, I realise that now – most of the time – but I need to have something. I need to be able to love my life, and not just the city and the books inside it.

life between the pages

Readers, I apologise for my lack of updates. It has not been intentional – as previously mentioned, This Wellingtonian Life™ has been a little bit entirely hectic, and my wordy wherewithal has been pointed in other directions.

But I’d better update you as to said directions, hadn’t I? Well.

1) I wrote an article for xoJane! That was pretty crazy.
2) I had my first full page article in NZ Musician
3) I am about to launch into Writers Week, both for work and for reviewing.

And that’s on top of all of my regular bookstore work and starting my publishing course and, you know, life in general! It’s crazy, but it’s great. I will have an update of more substance when everything settles down – and by then, I should have a few more links of published work to send your way. In the meantime, I’m also interested to know whether any of you have any particular pieces from my 365 pieces project that you liked more than the others – I am contemplating putting together a chapbook or ebook (or both) of some pieces, but would love feedback with regard to what pieces you’d think would be best suited and/or whether or not you’d possibly be interesting in purchasing such a book? It would give me a chance to try out my fledgling publishing skills!

Now, I must disappear and lock myself in my room until I finish my current piece – deadline’s tomorrow! Watch this space, my lovelies.

january

(a literary homage to ‘december’ by zoe boekbinder)

in january
so young i was
not a year ago
dark nights because

you were so far
in deserts cold
while in sun-strewn rooms
i felt so old

february then
brought you back
hearts flew high
as they shed their black

march my life
was hard and torn
as nights grew cold
you kept me warm

april escapes
to keep us sane
as long as it was you
i’d take any train

may was mere autumn
and life went on
nothing to report
was going wrong

june and birthdays
winter and hope
working my way down
my healthful slope

july the coldest
or was the next?
a sleety rainy blur
my mind protects

august descending
to knife’s allure
they brandished their forms
i said i’m sure

september is groggy
and vague in head
scars and holes or
morphine instead

october was still perfect
i thought it true
so many times i said
i love you

november it all came
so undone
life is so over when
you lose ‘the one’

now december
damp with sweat
cracked window
cannot save me yet

i feel so old
and still so young
i cannot see
how far i’ve come

(‘December’ is a beautiful, sad song. I once spent a tearful early morning waking around near-abandoned LES Manhattan singing it to myself after my heart was broken (albeit much less seriously) by someone else, pausing to consider going to church electively for the first time in my life, so lost I felt. Highly recommend listening to it – both the version from the Vermillions Lies ‘Sibling Rivalry EPs’ and from Zoe’s ‘Artichoke Perfume’.

I thought this year-oriented style would also be a good one to conclude the 365 pieces project – and before midnight, just like I promised! This is certainly not an end to creative writing being posted on this blog – but I am planning to concentrate more on longer format stuff for a while at least. But tomorrow I will post something, rest assured. Thank you to everyone who has continually kept an interest in this blog – readership – or at least ‘likes’ – has waned a little since a surge midyear, but ultimately, this project was for my purposes, to test whether or not I could carry out this seemingly huge task. And despite a fair few less-than-stellar offerings – and a few slapdash haiku here and there – it has been done. My goodness.)

a words with friends and christmas poem

we dined on the finest nosh
that the bazaar could provide
some would chug on eau de vie
brandishing an awl of their tribe
fearful that a foe comes
from the gulch next door
protect the pa from a golf course future
mesh fences protect
or add allure to
the broken yacht
where the moon wanes
and an old man clutches either
a broken lath
or instrument aiding ye olde yean
a confused ewe in the torque of the earth
as  her gut will ache

elsewhere
christmas
while a disk plays fa and la
viruses wiped by some dev
pass the turkey
say ta
play nim with aunty
a young voice like a filly’s gait
“na. nope. perv!”

(In my wonderful friend Annabelle’s honour – after finishing a fairly neck and neck game of Words with Friends, she suggested making a poem of them. Naturally, it was a case of challenge-freaking-accepted. Every word that featured in our game is contained within this poem, which managed to take on a slight family-shenanigans/pastoral Christmassy tone. Kind of. Or just ramshackle wordy madness. Take your pick!

AND! Last poem of the project tomorrow! I will be out in the early evening, but I’ll try to get something posted before midnight.)

raw

pink is the colour
of bare, fresh skin
not yet ready
to be touched by
the airs and the graces
of the world
it is the colour
of strange hair
bleached and stained
in a fit of madness
again and again
until it defines
the unloved
pink is the colour
of love and of hope
a thousand cards
for mid february
sent between lovers
with soaring hearts
the colour of childhood
for half of us
at least
dainty shoes and socks
kicked about
tossed asunder
for nobody wishes
to be so constrained
pink for pain
for madness
for heartache
for reverting
to childhood
because i do not know
how to live