new zealand electronic poetry centre

S A N D R A    B E L L


What we wore  


In Dunedin it was winter and the guests trapsed
over mountains and through snow to get to the party.
the coals in the fireplace were still warm on their arrival,
as they discarded their thick naval coats
and sat on the carpart beside the fire, warming their elegant hands.

meanwhile, the Spanish dance troup was stranded in Oamaru,
and made their way to the club where penguins live under the floorboards.
they danced all night, keeping the penguins awake,
stamping their feet, clapping their hands to the rhythm of the sea.
the next day Maori people came in boats to carry them away,
the women with their skirts high as they boarded,
the men held onto their black hats
as seals folowed them further south.
meanwhile we waited.
you were dressed in red, me in white.
you wore red satin over a full velvet skirt,
with a breast plate and a bugle in your hair.
i wore a full white dress and a fur hat.
in one hand you held a lily,
i held the wee one in a white shawl.
you look like the snow queen you said
yes I replied but my heart beats milk,
you look like Bodecea I said
yes you replied but I will not die for
love anymore
in Berlin, winter.
i criss cross the city on trains,
following the ancient walking paths of
the snow wolves.
the lights of the stations pass, i flick my
Turkish worry beads
one by one.
people stare at my imperfections, at what I‘m
wearing, a crumb of nut-nougut croissant on my
red lips, fluff on my stocking, petticoat
hanging a tad low,
my unpolished shoes…
a russian poet stands by the doors,
quietly reciting the tale of the penguin
who lived in a bath in a Kiev apartment
because the zoo couldn’t afford to feed him anymore.
do you know
he said, addressing me directly,
there are no penguins in the north pole?
no I replied surprised.
he looked at my red lace dress,
far too big but also too short,
with the secret label
Property of the Otago Girls High Theatrical
no I said, but you have icebears
yes he replied but they stranded, floating south
on the huge melting bergs…
are you the snow queen
he said
not yet I replied
flicking my beads,
as the train sped into the Berlin night…


excerpt from Postcards from Friedrichshain  

Last updated 10 May, 2006