The Pinkish Wine

from Hands on: a handbook for parents



Grandma was sick as a dog. Ruby said, I’ll go.
   A supermarket bag ticked with
six cakes. You think, said Mum,
      I’d let my only daughter walk those woods alone?

A spare daughter
   might have fared
      differently if she’d

existed. Mum put in a bottle of Chablis no Rosé on second
      thoughts for
    Grandma’s afternoon tea.


Sure enough on the path, a wolf.
   Sick too, as it happened. Sick as a human.

A morsel, he whined, a drink, not too much to ask,
   is it? Mum
scared him off with her famous fireplace snarl, white dust

   on her tongue, evidence of something
      lacking. A letter.
The wolf slunk off with his tail between

      a broom, a boy’s
         pocket-knifed toi toi.

Mum called after him, Don’t think you’ve got the monopoly on
   warm-blooded and furry!
To Ruby: I can play the female-defending-young

    card quite well. Mum and Ruby
continued on their way unhindered by anything apart from
      Ruby’s MP3 player. The Ramones

   on a leash, a tape-loop
      the brain as an avenue

and light slatting in through the young pine trees
    which made you think of all the previous occasions of sunlight.
Good thing I came along, said Mum. Considering

history. Ruby oblivious. Mum was
    a film star with music tapping her on the shoulder
(Oh incidentally)

if only she could hear it.
   It got annoying after a while
      for Ruby (and for us).



Insects under Mum and Ruby’s feet flew up from the forest floor.
   This is Your Life, a billion
      episodes. Then fell gently

    to biting. There were fantails following like paparazzi
that ate the insects that swallowed

the blood. Ruby and Mum walked on towards Grandma’s house
   swatting the things and the things
on the soles of their shoes.
      The path. The path!


At Grandma’s Grandma looked a terrible colour. 
   And was, 
the house cluttered like a palette, her ornaments, 
   her collection of fine dusts. 
Mum said, 
How are you anyway? out the side of her mouth like smoking. 
   A bad habit, all these years. 
Never you mind how I am, said Grandma. I just am. 
      Nothing you can do about it. 
Well that’s a bit rich considering, said Mum, 
   the visit, the cakes, their faces (all the round things). 
And the wine. Let’s drink to the wine. 
   Well all right I’ll drink to that. 
      And they drank 
   except Ruby who had two cakes, and 
when Grandma asked her to go and get the whisky she had 
      a walk to the cabinet to get the whisky. 
Presently Grandma said, 
      The prime minister is coming this afternoon. Helen. 
   Mum clicked her tongue over and over, a twig 
in bike spokes. 
   Jesus (in fact talking to Ruby) 
      not these 
   delusions of grandeur again! Grandma was 
wounded. I didn’t say I was the prime minister. 
   Did I Ruby? 
      No, said Ruby. 
She’ll be here at three o’clock, said Grandma. 
   Mum looked sly. I thought you said you were sick. 
      I was but now I’m better. 
   Jesus, we come all this way! 
Ruby said, Mum, don’t! 
      No really. All the way through the woods. 
It’s not woods, Mum. 
   Fine fine, pines. Pines. 
Can I help it if your grandmother won’t sell her house 
   to the Christmas tree company? Can I 
help it if the closer it gets to December the taller the trees are 
Can I help you? said Grandma. 
the taller the trees the crazier the people 
      sleeping under them. 
          Mind you who 
      can talk? Look. Bulbous eyes, enlarged nose, slavering teeth. 
It’s only the wine, said Ruby. 
   Wine. It sure is. Years of wine. 
Mum, please! 
      Thank you. I’ll thank you to keep out of this. 
Leave then! cried Grandma. Leave and don’t ever come back. 
   Fine with me. Don’t meet the prime minister. 
Ruby, we’re going. We’re leaving and we’re never 
      coming back. We’re leaving this 
Earphone buds mating in midair, the new indigestible 
Back through the woods. Mum on alert: watch out for 
      the wolf won’t you. 
Ruby to Mum: Mum, it’s not woods and it’s not wolf, 
      this is the Pacific. It’s bush and pedophiles. 
Oh I know, don’t think I don’t read The Herald. 
      the white album 
         an anthology, the canon 
   Even more reason. I have 
      even more reason. 
About this afternoon, I’m sorry it was all so something 
    but you know your grandmother 
That’s all right. 
      What I was going to say, so damaging. 
They talked about it and they talked about it. At least we 
   can talk about damage, utter the word 
      damage. At least you’re safe. 
A high level of safety. I was never this safe. A miracle 
      I’m here to tell the tale. 


Anne Kennedy’s most recent book is the narrative poem, The Time of the Giants(AUP). She lives in Honolulu and teaches writing at the University of Hawai’i.