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   n z e p c
Janet Charman   

All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney             


One Dozen Traveller’s Sonnets 


since we’ve worn skins

since we’ve worn skins we have prepared our clothes
to show our foreign hosts a traveller’s come
who’s worthy of the warmth around their stoves
and walks their foreign streets not as a bum
but draped in wool and fur and fine kid boots
quite equal to the strangers’ hands they shake
so Tamaki Makaurau’s greenest shoots
enhance the fabric of the suits i take
in cases layered with possum blends i wear
and soil and wash to scent with evenings out
‘all the better to trade with you My Dear’,
sew up these deals in style with all my clout
  still killjoys carp aloud at my return
 ‘but what big carbon footprints you have Gran’



the day care teacher whacked her boy

the day care teacher whacked her boy he sobbed
i saw her so she has to let me bring
my kids early to crèche so i won’t dob
her in for such an unprofessional thing
as to assault a child though her own blood
despite the centre’s policy on force
needs must blackmail her to ace my job
to keep me sweet she’ll try real hard of course
but now wild eyed a kid behind this couch
won’t say quite why he hides there curled in fear
and i don’t have the time to get in touch
with what precisely makes him shelter there
    relying on the arts of other staff
    i fly on schedule while i have the chance



when in the letterbox big bills

when in the letterbox big bills are stuffed
for more than i expect and rue to pay
while in my garden as the apples rust
espaliers’ arthritic branches sway
and storm gusts make the doors whang back and forth
brain swells against the dock of my cramped skull
peace quarried at until i lock my thoughts
and mash fresh tea but leave it to grow chill
settle debt peel wormy fruit and eat it
sweet with sour may disappointment vanquish
yet this bit woodiness absorbs my spit
in mouth burnt Easter Island steadiness
    as broken waves drained from a narrow stair
    aren’t yet tears but show the traveller’s nowhere



by night under the mattress

by night under the mattress one foot hooked
will pivot me to catch my hip shift dreams
that rich chick thinks i’ll do the job i took 
instructions on her villa-clean regime
but i won’t show to shine her house for cash
though i expect she’ll soon find someone else
to serve her like their own life is swept ash
get them to do the chores she hates herself
won’t even change the place she hides the key
front step ceramic foot green elephant
will someone some day slave like that for me?
iron rose petals vacuum scrub strew mint
    -her ease presumes another woman’s just
    the gears to do housework impervious


who have no country

who have no country wear ethnicity
coerced into a unity of fear
voiceless i hear them blindingly can see
the human singularity we share
home harboured here we sign the place we live
with lines formed in and out of history’s dark
where free minds eyes may flicker and revive
lands torn by ecocide make one choice stark
if wheat and rice and manioc don’t sprout
through snow and desert flood and constant sun
our stranger friends must thrust aside their doubts
and come and come and come and come and come
   so make my bed and lie there stupefied
   or waked  -prepare to swim the rising tide



i’ll shift the outside washhouse in

i’ll shift the outside washhouse in that day
build ramps to circumvent precipice steps
kind people who’ll make meals and showers pay
a decent wage for saving me mishaps
and it’s plain sense to have some younger friends
as those who go before me aren’t replaced
but whose feet clatter on the bridge depends
upon the arc of luck my life has traced
now hurl the stone you’ve picked up on this beach
to see it fly and skip and fly and sink
so i will come to earth and earth to each
peach stone poppy stones thrown so i can’t think
   my kind reach out in sickness and in health
   their measures trip the substance of myself



here in the kitchen reading

here in the kitchen reading on my own
while summer light sinks in close branched trees
and dusk absorbing colour from the leaves
delays the end of lives this writer’s grown
-ten pages more to plumb the story zone
in speeding density the plot waves heave
as deepest twilight slips the daily weave
into the black then men and women thrown
for chop and chat of dinner being got
the cat adamant at foot for titbits
quick Man and Daughters gobble up your news
electric sight directs i join the dots
   illuminate these shafts of wit well writ
   as denouement swims up from dark refused



does it hurt if some writers

does it hurt if some writers have it wrong?
Balboa’s men’s ‘wild surmise’ -not Cortez’
might stout explorer Kupe seek redress?
-they make replicas: “Hana’s Suitcase” shown
its owner gassed -makes her short story long
-bag and child burnt in Auschwitz her aunt says
but how to get the guilty to confess?
and ‘traitor’ Macbeth fought for Scotland strong
to cost the colonising Sassenachs
-Chaucer’s dictum: ‘the truest poetry
is the most seeming’ looks both ways scheming
and doubles back to cover up its tracks
    while young History’s hounds slaver to chase free
    Poets run hard by the fire dreaming



women with push chairs

women with push chairs trekking past my gate
lives silted up with chores and kids tv
while he’s at work and can’t return till late
redeem this serfdom as the child sees
in builds of blocks milk drunk veg. naps ride-ons
his leg to cling to ‘swamp’s got you’ cities
brought home to play the charming statesman con
a body majestic with its paid hours
down he leans pries circling fingers -gone
courier him grateful hearts and flowers     
in chilly packs that keep live lives on pulse
a reprieve from shaky business towers
  -with passing years should he aptly mellow
  might i forgive his old omnipotence?



two weeks more shall the elm

two weeks more shall the elm lime tips’ blossom  
travel up to the other hemisphere
before the crenellated leaf appears
winds in my imagination toss them
wax eyes and yellow hammers at pond’s hem
threading in and out of flax flower spears            
so trust my foolish body to the air  
baggaged seemly to declare my customs
where residents won’t know my name i theirs
stroll deep streets meeting who cares who we are
-floodlight trucks blocking the motor way pause
the east bound lane’s tail of flicking cars
   words grow small and smaller -still my fears
   hatched or ill these are my dragon years


a rat in the compost

a rat in the compost takes the full shock
stunned when its black garden pantry lid lifts
dives headfirst aghast down scrap alley rifts 
comes to my kitchen and failing to knock
learns to accommodate what is in stock
till dry burrowed young in spring floods make shift
pink nipple striplings settle whose biggest
in order of suck sitcom intros -sped up
ratlings packed tight keeping heat deep in grub
your warm breath her sky his dark cliff your back
out hairies the worrying stare of ‘cat’
nest wild life black lights this predator hub
   run over yanked out so quick it’ll crash
   the knife and fork drawer scrawl of rat language



since this hiccup

since this hiccup in the economy
i don’t sit down for less than a million
to watch ‘Friends’ reruns on television
Chandler and Joey’s shirts never wrinkly
Rachel and Ross in stuffing my turkey
then Phoebe drops in a basket of porn
on the cob and we all stay up till dawn
sipping bottomless cups of lingerie
give me your tyre irons Guys you’re poor losers
Monica! where are the bedroom windows?
-yearning to break free in Saks and Bloomies
best buys of a generation in Vegas
   ask not what your couches can do for your room
   Sitting Bull -Sweetie -I have a Krispy-Krème...



©Janet Charman