from Te Po-tahuri-atu (the night of restless turning)
the part about Reefton, it’s better that way.
Mum described her episodes
as ‘premonitions’, the thrill, she said, of being
right about something before it’s happened.
Later, decades later, this is how we will talk
politics. The president’s deputy council shows up dead
in a park in a Virginia suburb just outside D.C.,
discovered by a triathlete
getting her mileage in before work, a strangely
immaculate suicide, his perfectly clean
shirt blossoms with blood only after
the medics lift his body, suggesting, along
with the conflicting reports on the colour
of his gun, he was dead before he killed
himself. His suicide note,
which some contend he didn’t write,
suggests a man who had been living
ablaze in the margins of political theory.
Slowly, like two weeks slowly, it becomes clear
that Mum is faking it when she walks down
the wrong corridor, her dressing gown
slitting open, revealing her unshaven legs.
So when I ask her, working a crossword puzzle
as she counts the marigolds in the hospital garden,
for another word for paranoid, am I surprised
when I ink in her reply, ‘Observant?’
by a buzzard, who looks at me
with contempt for my song selection,
but I’m pretty interested in how Karen Carpenter
sounds in any other context than sung
from a Barbie’s mouth. My father advised me
to continue to think of divorce
in a philosophical way, while he slept through
a decade of surplus government funds.
My patients, he explained, would freak out
if I shaved my beard. They wouldn’t
I-love-you-till-death-etc. business, and of course
she does. Each time I ask her about this
on this evening she reminds me of white geraniums.
Then the old man who likes to mimic
shaking a stick at me when I come home from work
in tatters, some kind of day, some kind of weather,
he shuts himself down, just like that, walks out
of my life, leaves the stick in the bucket
by the door, next to the umbrellas.
134 London Street, Dunedin,
my family’s first home.
were doing bongers on the front porch.
No, I’m sorry, when I said
I didn’t want any, I meant that
in a recuperative sense. I’m shallow enough
as it is, you see, I’m not really hearing you
but I’m nodding in the affirmative.
The Anglophilia going around Christchurch
has infected god knows how many. Epidemic.
My uncle Tim, who lives there and works as a product manager,
won’t admit it, but his topiary garden
says it all. I’ll be leaving for the States soon,
and I’ll be careful to leave
all agronomic products behind,
that part of me, you see, that thinks
Milford Sound was a joke.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Twemlow was a Fulbright Fellow in residence at the IIML for 2005. While in New Zealand, he completed a manuscript of poems, and researched his Māori heritage and the life and writing of his great-aunt, novelist Joyce West. He lives in Chicago, in the United States, where he works as a freelance writer and co-edits The Canary, a poetry annual.