Dreaming in New Zealand

I love this tongue as mine (is mine) 
and would all were as I am wont 
to hear here: sex, a quest, great grail, 
for I hear seeks, with no sweat spent 
to search that isn’t sweet, as every 
beck and call’s both song and beak 
with which to hold our tune. Winter 
wears her well-earned warrior’s clothes, 
a season wearing thinner, wetter, 
colder, but still and ever green, here— 
she’d not leave her leaves, not shed 
what’s hers though the southerly 
tried and tries to whistle them away. 
And since this is my comedy 
of ears, in one and in the other’s 
fate’s to trip again, I’ll claim: 
the body is both bread and breed, 
as words well said are planted seed 
and grow so where we tread is treed, 
where each line read remains the reed 
on which the note is played when pressed 
to lips, mouth, self-ordained as priest, 
weds wed to we’d and weed and so 
with word grown one forever as even 
the dead remain in deed, wound round 
and round in these wet sheets of wind. 

Listen to Dora Malech read ‘Dreaming in New Zealand

Long Distance

Today, I take a nap in my afternoon. 
It is, of course, the middle of your night. 
I lie on my back and imagine us lying back-to-back. 
As hemispheres have it, we are. 
My shoulder blades are almost up against yours. 
The soles of our feet are almost pressed together. 
Only the world is in between us. 
In your morning, you sweep up glass 
where a dove mistook a pane for nothing at all. 
In my evening, I hear the call of a stitchbird, 
endemic, endangered (extinct on the mainland), 
previously thought to be a member of the honeyeater family, 
recently revealed to have no close living relative at all. 
It is the only bird known to mate face-to-face. 
Its Maori name is ‘hihi,’ meaing ‘ray.’ 
(‘Hihi o te ra’: ‘sunbeam.’ ‘Hihi kokiri’: ‘x-ray.’) 
‘Hihi,’ pronounced one giggle, not two greetings. 

The Up-and-Up

There is infinite precedent 
for the perversion of clemency. 
I have held the envelope up to the light. 
When the President pardons a guilty man, 
clouds the color of the night sky cover 
most of the night sky, and the remaining 
stars seem to huddle together. 
This is one of many pet projections, 
I admit, to fancy the fires 
of far off encampments and each 
with a single sleepy sentry 
not unlike myself. 
No weapons, no maidens, 
no vessels, no beasts. 
Actually, exactly like myself, 
how mirrors catch and cast, 
flash back, at last, a hopeful signal. 
The less I can identify the constellations, 
the more I identify with them. 
Call it cathexis, a false positive, 
or New Moon, another name 
for looks like nothing now but wait. 
I have tried to compose myself. 
When the coroner handed me the watch, 
I couldn’t look, unsure if I’d rather find 
it stopped at the time of or still telling. 
I live by the fault line, infirm firmament’s 
faithful child. Outside, the two-faced grove 
bows one way and the other, opens its cones 
first for rain and then for flame, 
annulling the trunk where I offered 
my mark, where the live wood healed 
to a black love knot, proof of conscription. 
I saw hands break both haft and hasp 
to axe the hatch and burn the last 
bridge at both ends. Perhaps 
I should have shook them, grateful. 
Instead, I practiced casting shadows, 
flat stones in the hope of the day they find 
me blameless. I have prayed, and pray, 
for a patient anthropologist 
to teach me how to be myself again. 

Floral Arrangements

No naming names but some people I know 
spend all day decomposing. No 
and for my next act and no leave a message at the beep 
if you get my drift rather loam and sleep 
and cut to the pit orchestra swelling into aftermath and 
ever after. She loves me or she loves me not says Susan 
with both black eyes sewn 
shut. On one greeting card the yawning 
kitten lolls on the settee and on another one a duck announces that he knows 
some of the nicest people. I don’t speak lightly when I say how 
true. Hard rain on Johnny-Jump-Up and on Patient Lucy but their heads 
bounce back. Dirge of bluebell and fiddlehead 
claims of rest in peace early and rest in peace often 
as even a nod-off 
does you good. Lily to lily: ever seen a gondola or a lot of elk 
all in one place? Lily to lily: what’s your favorite apostasy? Perhaps I asked 
you and forgot. Prune or the petunias grow rangy and don’t just pull the withered
rather pinch the heads off at the stem. Just in case dress for a funeral. 
Eat the hat and eat the heart out. Don’t kill 
the messengers who never claimed to be our bright ideas. Last will 
and last won’t last 
are you going to eat that? Here comes the little engine chuff chuffing on its last 
warm cockle. Some of the nicest people spend all day decomposing 
hearts eaten out over the curtain down and always waiting 
at stage right for the spotlight and the next big act. I never claimed to be 
a baseball season. I’ll go ahead and cry if that’s my thing. When I said can’t miss me 
I’m the house with bougainvillea I meant 
enormous purple flowers but even that 
was wrong. The—and I quote—small unnoticeable flowers 
are produced in summer 
and are surrounded 
by large, brilliantly colored bracts. 

Ponte Sisto

Below the bridge, 
an endless eddy 
splashes back at the hem 
of the spillway’s skirt, 
churns a froth 
of sticks and milk jugs 
and Styrofoam and soccer balls 
and tarp and plastic bags 
over and under 
in a current bewitched 
to vortex, backflow. 
The river cannot 
choose what 
it cannot let go, 
is low today 
and seems unable 
to part with anything 
at all. On the bridge, 
a woman wears 
a gray blanket 
and yells in no one’s 
particular direction. 
The passersby part 
to flow around her 
body without touching 
her body or the beggars or 
their skinny dogs but stop 
to turn and lean over 
the guardrail and gawk 
at the river’s newfound 
collection and speculate— 
The contents of a wind-struck 
campsite or trash of a more 
northern town dragged 
downstream, gathered here 
through confluent accidents 
of weather, water. 
Or some impractical 
joker’s idea 
of art— 
the bouncing balls 
of a lunatic lottery, 
re-arrangement, de- 
composition, ever un- 
still life, inconsolable 
and constant star-crossed 
constellation, construct 
of awkward orbits, collisions. 
The passersby watch 
for their favorite pieces 
of flotsam to pop up 
again and then do 
what passersby do 
(pass by). 
The hungry dogs watch 
their hungry masters 
who watch the possibly 
unwatched pockets 
and the woman stops yelling 
at no one to look up 
at no one, reach 
beneath her blanket 
and touch herself. 


Dora Malech convened one of the MA Writing for the Page workshops at the IIML this past year. She has found New Zealand to be an incredibly inspiring place in which to live and to write. She will miss the people she has had the honour to know and work with here — and she will miss the place itself — very much.