new zealand electronic poetry centre

S o m e   s h e l l s   i n   a   t o b a c c o   t i n

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                                                                                                                      Sue Wootton

Alan Loney in the Print Room
(Open Sky. A Homage to Ruth Dallas by Alan Loney, Otakau Press, 2008)

Gold ink to the parsnip page, pressed. Salt-white
blue beach-bones. Blood oranges drop

by drop, and open sky curves –
sweet, unblemished Ecuador yellow – which

(unaccountably) reversed themselves, went
green. One leaf

ember-bright, fallen just here. Deciduous. Accurate. 
One horizontal line: squiggly, skinny as planet crust.

One broad drop
of amber satin ribbon

thumping the back of the jumping girl, her plaits
in flight.  This is the book of Ruth, her testament

and his, who lights up within
the bulb of his printer’s apron

in the turpentine-fumed room, the wide window behind
glassing silent the cars, allowing, filtered through full-

fingered trees, only the necessary pigments. Gold
ink on the parsnip page: the scent like a drug.

The single stone
in the jangling river catches her eye, and his

                                              and the sun’s.


Singing in a storm

Why should the downpour, drumming on the car,
And trumpeting from the wheels,
Make all the noise?                                                           
              Ruth Dallas, Madly Singing


Cardigan-buttoned in a paddock, hands pocketed.
You wouldn’t think from her photograph
she’d go out in a storm, let alone sing in one.

Macrocarpa line the horizon, dark starched prickles.
She’s coal-range-practical for sure
(first prize Cream Sponge,  dab hand with a pav)

but don’t you instantly see old-fashioned librarian,
card-index-fusty, who’d stab you with a  shush!
in a high-ceilinged room where the only other sound’s

the regular dry kiss of the due-date stamp? There might be
gumboots (you can’t tell) but you can see from her face
she wouldn’t abide mud. So why this hiss from the page

like missed lightning, a flash each time you glance away?
Suddenly you see what was there all the time – her grin! –
like her signature on a contract, on a vow of joy,

a lifelong engagement with the elemental. She smiles
because today ten thousand invisible axe-wielders
chop silence into sparks and booms. How composed

she is, how present. You can tell from her photograph
she’ll wait. I like singing in a storm, she wrote. Most
difficult art: not simply wild and loud, but wild, loud,

                            and simply.