new zealand electronic poetry centre

Michael Harlow

online works


Grandmother the Dancing Woman

     Lighting fires in the roadway she danced to the gramophone. She whistled birds to her shoulder. She loved – was loved. For years she slept with a knife strapped to her waist.

     I tell you she rouged her nipples the colour of rose and earth said Grandfather. She had fancy footwork could dance and did, on any high holiday. Always a circle in and out . . . .

     Aaahhh. . . said Grandfather, she shoved her wheelbarrow down the cobbles. She told stories from door to door. The children threw stones and jerked their limbs. The secrets of things she remembered them . . .

     There was a ram’s horn in a music box from Tiblisi, once a prize. And a fistful of silver eggs that clicked in a porcelain jar . . .   Odd cuts of cloth . . . and knucklebones of translucent shell. Once I remember in olive wood a giant spoon tattooed with a devil’s trap . . .

     And she would grin and grin and roll her head and she would dance snap her eyes against the light –

     I wish there were some spectacular end to report.

     There is none.

     I see her now whirling the length of the street, just there, over the backs of stones, down to the riverflats yellow with reed . . .

     And like a small squall of magic she is gone –  



From Nothing but Switzerland and Lemonade (Hawk Press, 1980)

Michael Harlow

Last updated 20 March, 2005