Slice of Life
Cast List: in Order of Appearance

Little Boy Dropping Homemade Cardboard Sword and Leaving it on 
His Mother 
Man in Suit #1 
Man in Suit #2 
Disparaging Teenage Girl in Pink Rabbit Ears 
Worried Wife 
Unwell Husband 
Rushing Woman Kicking Aside Dropped Cardboard Sword 
Evangelist Carrying Jesus is My Thrash Metal Sign, Preaching to 
        Cardboard Sword 
Insouciant, Tall and Hunched Over Toyota Driver Completely Ignoring 
                                       Cardboard Sword 
Drunk Adult Man in Smurf Costume #1 Confused by Cardboard 
Drunk Adult Man in Smurf Costume #2 Explaining Cardboard Sword 
Sober Adult Man Taking Smurf Costume Off 
Young Woman Playing Jazz Sax on Skateboard Getting ‘Phat Air’ 
Cardboard Sword 
Shy Dancer Waiting for Internet Date, Staring Anxiously at 
                                                             Cardboard Sword 
Harassed Father Striding Doggedly 
Little Girl Really Struggling to Keep up with Harassed Father Finding 
Cardboard Sword and Suddenly — Skippingly — Swashbuckling. 

To the Waiter Behind the Counter at the [Name Suppressed] Café

Your shirt’s just a joke, mate, 
with its baseball chick, her spine 
canted at us Brokeback style, 
as if we’ll all want her too, 
her G-string run, cleft-nectarine arse 
and tits like a blow-up doll’s — 
no breasts or buttocks here, 
anything to do with a woman’s body 
has to be said as if you’re cussing her out, 
and what’s wrong with her, anyway? 
It’s freedom of speech, you say, 
that’s why you wear her here, 
opposite the café’s toy box, ice blocks, 
the kids’ ride-ons and tyre swings. 
So you’ll get it, at some level, won’t you, 
if you ever have daughters 
and I serve them, or teach them, 
when they’re five, or ten, or eighteen 
and I wear on my V-neck shirt 
no, actually, not a muscle-ridged jock 
with splayed legs; lying back, 
erect cock crowing ‘Ready!’ 
like a cooked turkey timer; 
but a man with no genitals, 
Ken-doll neuter, just a sweet 
blind tuck, nowhere 
to hurt and enter either, 
and he’s holding, what, 
a sheaf of papers, a child’s hand, 
an iPad, a pile of laundry, 
a home-made meal, 
a book, an Allan key, 
a look on his face as if he’s deep 
in full and close conversation. 
But your girls will know which side 
they’ve got to butter your bread on, 
know it as well as the swift hard strop 
from the back of your hand, 
so you’ll be able to brush the image off 
as just some bit of cunt’s fun; 
a few women might want their men 
attentive, competent, and rapeless, 
but we all know real life’s 
not like that, so what love 
lost, what harm 
have you done? 

Natural Justice


This small boy with buttery curls 
soft as bantam feathers, 

cheeks and limbs that make old folk 
want to hold a festival of pinch and squeeze, 

he’s got an arsenal. He has alien 
blam-blam space guns. He says 

if there are wild animals starved outside 
he will stab them with his stabbers, 

and if there are baddies 
he will slice them with his slicers. 

How will you know they’re baddies? 
He’s shocked. Because they’ve got guns to shoot us! 

But if you’ve got space guns and slicers, 
won’t they think you’re a baddy too? 

Well, baddies want to steal our things. 
They want to dead us and take our stuff. 

What if the baddies are just scared, hungry, 
don’t have a home, they’re cold and lonely, 

only about to shoot because we seem angry 
and as if we might fire first? 

Well, then, they might not be baddies, 
just dumb goodies, 

but they still shouldn’t shoot us so 
Blam Blam Blam! 

Wait. Let’s go back over this. They’ve got guns, 
but you do too. If they see your guns first — 

No! He drops the Nerf blaster, refuses water, stories, 
turns his back, finds his cuddle cloth; 
at its soft-sweet body musk, bows his head 
like a man just read his rights to silence. 



Emma Neal is the author of five novels (Random House NZ) and four collections of poetry, the latest of which, The Truth Garden (Otago University Press), received the Kathleen Grattan Award for a poetry manuscript in 2011. A recent selection of poems was one of three entries shortlisted for the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Award. Emma works as a freelance editor and, on alternate years, she co-ordinates the poetry workshop at the University of Otago.