One Criticism of Your Novels


Often you lead us
to expect a fortunate twist:
orphans duly benefacted,
the sons of widows
grown esteemed and wealthy,
their good brains having outpaced
childhood poverty and bad education.
Villains? They die in gaol,
repent, or are sent to Australia. 

So seldom it happens this way
in our stories. Wards of the state
given three years’ grace
at boarding schools go back
to their crack homes at sixteen-
Wouldn’t Oliver have traded
one thousand Brownlows
for one Agnes Fleming?

It’s worst for the one who’s bright;
he picks up the knife,
the foil, the light, the pipe,
the right way to score on tick, so quickly.
He can subside on milk and porridge.

A creature of subplot, most nights he spoils
against an outside wall, a dogged Banksy
with ideas that exceed doles,
dealers and the paranoia of smoke
but not the means.

This is just to let you know
how it is with us, here:
it is sweet Nell dead, Charles,
and her grandfather
waiting beside the grave
like a Labrador.



Johanna Emeney is a tutor of Creative Writing at Massey University, Albany. She also co-facilitates the Michael King Young Writers Programme with Rosalind Ali. Her second book of poetry Family History is going to be published in April 2017 as part of the Mākaro Press Hoopla series.