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   n z e p c
Janet Charman   

All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney             


100 snapshots    

the stepchild’s

the quarry two cars
eight men
five hours

starlight reserve
night fell in
my lap

grown up children
shut bedroom doors
anybody in there?

the disused warehouse burns
don’t be cynical about love
seventeen fire engines wet it down

a beautiful man
i forget my order
a beautiful woman i forget my change

i wash my friend in sunlight
and moonlight
who will die first?

in my dream
your arm came under my breast
and held me warm and light like the scarf i bought myself

since long before
i’ve written about tea
but i was never so thirsty

i found this pure gold chain broken on the forecourt at the service station
mine i’d pressed on the wife at the pensionne
because her husband expected something for nothing
Aunt’s plants are hungry in the pot
she lived in her garden
which one is she? asks the gardener

privately the groom advises:
girls don’t sit with their legs apart
i am to be her maid of honour

fog driving
heart talk
moon hangs gold on the bypass
one photograph shows crumbs around the keyboard
cat delete restore swoons purring in my arms
what does a girl have to do to get a cup of dry pellets around here?

that’s a hungry cry
turn up the music

a Maori woman in a burqa asks me for directions
i can’t help her
but suggest she check the address with the nuns

in bomber heaven
to make a good impression
you get a government contract

in porn king heaven
he has the remote control
but they don’t know

i wanted to write something for the earth
but she turned green and started throwing up
so i left it

we have that cup of coffee
my heart set
call an ambulance
leaves left up
lit from within
float in the night radio

thunder bangs our heads together
daylight inside out
the hedgehog clenched in her prickles

in the saved student newspaper my idiot truth letter:
‘above all non-hierarchical’ 
O widen the circle!

the pit-bull ate a hedgehog
and a cat
we had to get rid of it

think what to write
scrub mould
off the bathroom ceiling spores released

drawn to walk the wetland path
remote enough for the man’s attack
fly you Pukekos! i’d not forgive myself

our war dead
lest we forget
their imperial invasion at Gallipoli defeated

Issa haiku
mine that world
lumps of coal on the fire

cleaning: so they see you
don’t own it
leave some shit

two of us going on can use the truck lane
makes us quicker than the rest
in the motorway’s fog pillows
all our nature poems
they’ll know
while Earth burned we fiddled

street sleepers
obscure their car windows
in white breath nets

each with our secrets
you step into the lift
as i drive off

rain makes a song and dance about the washing
the door blows shut on the cat’s tail
she howls to finish it

is that you? in the phone
or in the fine gold chain i lie along the ledge of my screen
all of a piece it spills

eat an egg from an uncaged hen
my eggs are gone
so my cluckiness

i don’t want to crawl along the hall
wiping dirt off the skirting board
in an eclipse i shall

not all the poems can be written in winter
libraries have them
we longed all summer for this rain

bakery slice
if the Doc. is pleased with my cholesterol
i’ll make it

how about leaving an extra line between poems?
but you don’t
ah – the quick step
some monkey crumb i pick up and eat

the cat has not come
that’s her! – a soccer ball on the verandah

thing i knitted says my Mum
casting on for my daughter

those freezer burned peas dumped in the grass
down come birds in the rain peck out the innards
pale shells left

hardly older than i
and dying of natural causes
once-in-sixty-years weather events: every fortnight 

Saint Paul? she says
a gay man in denial
emptying compost under the dripping plum my bare feet take a joyful chill

season’s end
in the Sally Army window: toe shoes
satin sausages to barbeque the feet en pointe

the phrases unsettled 
Chen Li poems’ sense before us

she’s run out of inhalants
we can’t breathe
driving to hospital she gasps: ‘you don’t need – to be silent’

pots simmer
stars wheel
abjure letters to the editor

rain speaks sharply
No! to razed cliff tops
No! to shaved riversides

read ‘our dark Dunedin houses’
in Cilla’s shifts of light
honey to the cave of cold hands

leaf raking: the trees tell me
about Winter

in the language changing rooms of Michele’s poems
i don’t know where to look
hot showers on a cold day: cold showers in the heat

men’s clean lineages
muddied with women’s names
‘step away from the tree!’

and luxuriate in this unforgivable sin:
translating your poem to mean
what i wish

this camellia
takes no prisoners: all the fallen
rotting at its feet

in sheds
on the net: men watching
i watch the milk

rain beats on the house
puffs of heat escape the blankets
the cup of cold tea knocked into my bedside drawer

from the sunken pool our little one lifted: alive
the baby wobbling across the coastal highway – a passing driver scoops her up
gives back our last resort: this holiday of a lifetime

on the racecourse i find the nine of clubs
what kind of luck is this? the pack thrown off – i’m away
mountains fold into the ocean: forgotten shopping lists
hoist in pale sky: one lemon cloud – the horizon firing a gold line
that fourteen week stand down for the dole 
winter hitting on her

pain in my heels and wrists
three emails 
back to bed – sleep wings the answers 

is there anything you’re afraid to find a way to say?
here – when they break the social contract – anyone who has them on about it they accuse
of ‘the politics of envy’
dishes tower in the sink: cutlery propped in a dirty pot: glasses rounded up
off the coast oil rigs suck: wage earners prop up bankers’ profits: illegals shot
run in the hot

my dream
deep pockets

at this window landing in the house across the close i watch
the child a-bounce in his cot

all the US texts i’ve read referencing each other: whippoorwills and chickadees
with the chirpy authority of tray-liners
throw away the wings thrashing in my hands my head jerked back

those amber those carnelian wrist beads
cheap beyond belief
live ammunition from the far away market
shoes off shoes on: i enter your poems
living things
make me ashamed of my possessions

i’m to take my daughter for a driving lesson
the other time there was a little crash
today the anger melts away from us

he likes her oblivious
to the adulation sweated from her pores
like last night’s garlic

washing pegged out
rain or shine
millennia of women eyeing the sky: the dryer

The Menstrual School is taking enrolments
fees by monthly direct debit
and cross the playing fields arm in arm with our mates: open day

a cop car: three get out
one to the back one to the front – she knocks
one under the bedroom window of the empty house

in the receiving line
fearing they’ll hongi
fearing they won’t

tarpaulins raised the length of the driveway – trestle tables
dark windows open: inside voices
arm deep in the hedge a woman cutting camellias 

‘The Maquis’ approach at the station: ‘but how did you...’
– led through back streets: ‘tell this address and they’ll come for us’
but in the safe house it’s just women and their kids

the glass sealing
– the print ride’s off

more in sorrow than in anger or go for the jugular
that teacherly reviewer: ‘commend recommend commend’
best of all: a call from the back of the cave – where prance shadowy figures
Diana gives me a little milk jug
both bridges pour from it: ‘the orange of enlightenment’
‘a pink to sear the senses’
my psychotic break:
trios of cans
in health branded shrink-wrap

how i praised her in that report
next term she announced her engagement:
driving with the handbrake on

somewhere in these clothes an insect
biting across my belly
makes me itch for unguents and fresh linen

TV rap channel on low: he watches her
pick something good to eat from the tree
there it is! disobedience

a visitor coming: if it’s my mother i’ll clean the hand basin
the house smells of soup
– do i offer an explanation?

yeah well if hers is foreplay his is afterplay
should it come to a third act
they’ll breathe in the anticipatory hush of the auditorium

i can’t get blood out of a stone
but i can
get blood out of a towel

man on deck
explaining rainbow science
to his sons

a trippy instrumental
freezes in the headlights:
Morning Report

PD boys in hazard fluoros
rakes: leaf blower
loppers: pruning-saw: secateurs

Uncle & Mr.
& Mrs. Duck – down again for the shooting season
i lay out fresh crusts

like something from Modern Girls Annual
dinner plate fungi have sprouted under the shrubs
Hillary and Monica get wasted

‘could what she’s saying be true? – we’ll never know’
kind Sir
you bet your sweet arse: we do

Kuaka shadows speed across the grass
what’s passed between us: an instant
brimming in their wings
at any window with the light behind me
a gunshot
clears my head

try and press the spot
on my conscience
where i just squeak past

the two cardboard boxes full of fruit he places in the foyer
to be devoured
every leaf every pip every stalk their teacher’s marked

where the mower blade missed
a fluke: one bladder of spring onion
breaks above the turf

unopened: the tulip stem collapsed
i cut it short
and stick it in a little bottle with a sprig of heather


Snapshots 1-10 first published in Wellington Poetry Society Journal 2010



©Janet Charman