new zealand electronic poetry centre

C A T H    K E N E A L L Y

To take to the Island

Towels, to leave there
Sorbolene , cosmetics samples
in tiny bottles, to leave
crime novels, ditto
Deny King, King of the Wilderness , also
In Tasmania & The Wollemi Pine
How about Duras: 'un barrage contre le Pacifique'?
down there we need one against the Southern Ocean
Thought of a name for the house
saw myself standing outside it, under a sign
it's gone again
The thesis is packed in a shopping trolley
to be carted to the Graduate Centre
and deposited this morning
I long to be rid of it, but it'll leave a hole
What will I worry about now?
My eye skids sideways to the guidelines
at my elbow. 'The Critical Essay, as a general rule …'
too late now
Take this writing pad
the mobile
library books


Jenny's Hideaway
daphne on the windowsill, in the bow
window of Jen's new studio
a stun-gun jolt of aroma
rollercoasts me back to the terrace
outside the nuns' recreation-room
where I spy briefly on Sister Rockjaw, bent
over her prize bush, features softening
as she whispers to it
A Wellington electric bus slides by
bisecting the opposite hill, tethered
to overhead wires by two poles that give it
the character of a fast-moving snail
antennae flung back as it breasts a head-wind
clouds march double-time across the horizon
behind a regiment of peaks, the daily
invading army sweeping over Hataitai alps
holding formation as they press on
I rehearse the paper I'm to give tomorrow
extolling fictions for older women
decrying the failings of chick lit
a late-bloomer crying for company
cerise oleander thrives by the cage out there
I take to be for rabbits (in fact for hedgehogs,
a staging-post before they go back on the road)
poisonous mid-winter blooms inviting an
easy segue, which I reject in favour
of claiming sisterhood with the gardenia
still fragrant, but dropping the odd blossom
on the desk, from a miniature urn Greg seems
to have painted repeatedly, and fellowship too
– clichéd but on-the-money – with the forget-me-nots
in the blue cup, while not demanding attention
 thickly flowered, modestly insistent

Pick a number


Thirty-one thousand; the cost of this house
in 1981. Seventy-five – the one
around the corner, two years later
The family's first phone number:
seven double-six five oh two
the cousins': nine six two five double two
Street numbers of the houses you've lived in
except for Sydney ones, which didn't imprint
75, 354, 19, 13, 46
the years you made trips overseas
the price of a kilo of mince in '76
(a dollar). How much it cost
to get into the pictures, up until
you were ten (sixpence, ninepence, a shilling)
your mother's age at the birth of her last child
– 43. How many runs your father made at the SCG
in 1951 (12). The size he took in shoes (10)
how much you weighed at sixteen
(eight and a half stone). The year you left school
but not the years your kids did. The dates of
deaths in the family – but you need to work backwards
from these to figure the birth-years of mother,
father and brother. You know your divorced sisters'
old phone numbers, not their new ones
can never recall what happened three days back
but know the sums you asked the operator
when phones had Button A and Button B:
How many holes in a crumpet?
How many bubbles in a Coke?

Adelaide, April 2006

Last updated 28 April, 2006