Don’t let me be misunderstood

There’s a young man at the next table wearing
my t-shirt. I mean he’s wearing a t-shirt
the same as one of mine. I have a t-shirt just like his.
Only smaller. And his fits differently,
on account of his flatchestedness.
He could be my son. I mean he’s not, but he could be,
he’s young enough is what I mean. He looks a bit
disconcerted, I think he’s noticed me looking at him.
Probably thinks I’m a cougar. Not an actual cougar.
I’d hate to be misconstrued. After all,
he could almost be my son. I’ll look away now,
check out the flowers hanging from the ceiling.
They’re plastic, so not actual flowers.
The colours are quite garish but I guess
they occur in nature. The colours I mean,
not the flowers. Flowers like that don’t exist.
He’s doing the crossword. I mean he’s filling it in.
With a pen. He’s not very good. At the crossword,
I mean. His head bobbing up and down
as he counts the spaces. He’s frowning, it doesn’t fit.
I’d offer him a hand, but he might misunderstand,
plus he’s doing the cryptic. I’m no good at those.


They all know, the little ones, 
because they’ve all tried it, 
what happens to the pencils 
when you push them, 
blunted end first, 
into the hole and turn them 
against the blade 
and yet today I feel it 
all over again, the amazement 
offered by one small boy bringing me 
the finger he had shorn, the nail shredded, 
blood dark and oozing from the tiny wound. 
Did you put your finger in the sharpener? 
Did you catch it against the blade? 
I ask these questions without thinking, 
tearing open a band-aid. 
He’s six, the number of perfection. 

Listening to Schubert’s Piano Quintet ‘Trout’

I remember reading somewhere 
poor Schubert died 
even younger than you. 
O my mysterious father, 
I’ve seen snapshots 
where you are 
smiling, dangling shining fish from lines. 
It’s a family tradition 
I’m following, 
squelching along muddy river banks 
of celluloid, 
old reel to reel. I hear 
sounds of life in the current, 
faint movements 
under watery time and space, 
almost certain 
there’s something to be seen, 
hiding among the reeds, 
those sweet, fleeting sounds 
of darting fish. 

Listen to Claire Orchard read ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood


Claire Orchard was born in Wainuiomata, grew up various Hutt Valley locations, and now lives in Wellington, where she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2013. She has had work published in Penduline Press, the 2012 Eat Your Words anthologyJAAM4th Floor and Landfall.