SARAH JANE BARNETT
After dinner she puts the Christmas pine in its box. It’s bent and swollen with garlands of tinsel. Last year her father had packed it away, shifting on his knees, bending the stubborn branches back on themselves until the tree collapsed down. His hands had shaken from the therapy, tiny earthquakes in his sleeves. They sat to finish the holiday crossword. He recited the questions, his medic’s voice echoing up from childhood. How many band members were in Erasure? What game has both tricks and hoops? She carefully printed the answers. As he dozed asleep his chin released onto the kite of his chest. What do you want me to do with your body?
I’ll admit it—that year I was obsessed with fertilisation and growth. The new flower bed had been my idea. You were kind to me—good humoured. You cut into the ground and lifted away strips of sod. Beyond our garden the crematory smoked with a burning. Ribbons of chalky ash lifted to the sky. ‘You’re so grave,’ you joked, as I cupped my giant stomach. Our boy swam under my hands. Do you remember that day? We’d fought all morning. I’d refused to talk about f-ing floral caskets, about guardians or arrangements. The poet I was reading died young. He once wrote his lover shaped him like clay to fracture him later. ‘Beautiful,’ you said, and planted your shovel in the wound in the garden.
The boat lands. The sandy beach sucks at her running shoes. The young lanky tour guide dives into the vegetation, and she tries to follow using her toes and fingers, to stand where the women lived during whaling times, in their brown roofed houses. They melted blubber down to oil. They transmuted their hands to scarred machines. The spades, the scrag. How beautifully they shined. The guide asks the party to shed their thermal leggings and heavy boots. The sun in his hair; a romantic aura. She pulls away her puffy jacket. Her face and body are blustered by the wind. This is how it would have felt, he says, for those early settlers. She tries to imagine the women. She cannot hear their voices, the barks of their children. The high cliffs drop to the sea like the women’s skirts must have, the hems dark with fat.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer, tutor, and book reviewer who lives in Wellington. Her first collection of poems, A Man Runs into a Woman, was published by Hue & Cry Press in 2012, and was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards. Her work has appeared in various publications including Sport, Landfall, Best New Zealand Poems, JAMM, Trout, and Southerly. She is currently completing a creative PhD in the field of ecopoetics. Sarah blogs at: theredroom.org