Old Tricks


In those days the whalers were still
teaching the whales to fetch.
They had already grasped the concept of
sit, wait, roll over and now
the whalers were throwing the whales a big stick
propelled miles away with a contraption
not unlike a massive crossbow with
metal darts.
Back they would come
lolloping over the oceanic trenches,
victorious cow at the front of the pod
with that giant stick dragging in the current,
hanging out
the side of her mouth.


Valery Spiridonov, a Transplantation


So far, everything has
kind of been an experiment.

Now that I have seen the dogs
muzzle to muzzle, expertly

nudged into place, neck like an awful
handheld phone before the connection,

it’s starting to make sense. Ultra-fast
broadband; think of it like that,

he said, after the sickly trace of his glove
now that everything has fallen into place.


Now that everything has fallen
into place, I have gone window-shopping

in China, deciding on my preference
for size eight feet, functional

quadriceps, a shallow fold down
the lower back, a sizeable penis.

My favourite was third across on the bottom row
body like prime real-estate

second-hand of course, but what did it for me was
that streamlined, black-ink tattoo on the outer thigh;

a nice touch. I think I could really see myself
looking down at it and even through

murky bathwater you would still pick it out
the elegant calligraphic coil and slip

as it slips now down the man’s thigh, surprisingly
still taunt. I test the hand by pressing it lightly

and although the joints crackle back as the grip
unclenches like a grey spider, I make myself

think of all the potential: skiing, mountain biking.
The trick is to imagine the skin warmed up.


The trick is to imagine the skin warmed up,
so, naturally I began to dream of microwave

-ovens, hum of the slow orbital, frosted glass
plate, harsh light. Another night, the scientists

lowered me onto the world stage where I lay
beside my lover, hip to hip. The surgeon[1],

our medical match-maker exchanged
a few words with a few full stops.

Let’s get this over and done with shall we?
Muffled overhead like a plane, like a foot

stamped on the moon. The rest is too chop
and change, but what sticks with me

afterwards is the surprising pull
of skin on my neck, backwards

and forwards under the metal teeth, and how
I tried to open my mouth from a long way off.

[1] Sergio Canavero, Italian neurosurgeon, is intent on performing the first human head-transplant on Russian volunteer Valery Spiridonov in 2017.  

My Other Fathers


My Other Fathers

James Dean
shares my father’s forehead. The cobblestone soles
of his feet traipsing the gutter of the Boulevard,
he is creased up all thinking about my mum.
Sepia is a good tint for this mood. A smoke
lags behind companionably in his left hand,
like a sad, miniature dog bone
between his two fingers.
Oh how
he regrets everything he said to her on the public
phone. He regrets getting on the public bus and getting
a public photograph taken of himself on the very street
that he thinks about her on. His forehead resembling
my father’s ribs.
Cat Stevens
lets me climb trees, walk miles. He says ‘miles’
because he’s American, although so would James
Dean. When I fireman pole down the trunk he’s catching
up with me at the bottom. He doesn’t mind me pointing out
cats and laughing. He laminates watercolour prints of the moon.
But he never wastes paper either.
His new guitar when it comes in the mail next week
will be made of regurgitated wood. When my first tooth comes out
he slips it into his black beard. I never see my tooth again.
I believe that my mother and Cat Stevens
take it out to look at when they are feeling in love.
When they are feeling in love, they also laugh and make
bread and watch me play in the tree from the roof
where they have two armchairs and a stool
all rain-bleached, concealing spiders.
Dan the Weatherman
does this excellent impression of rain. Does it so well
sometimes that I step in the puddles he leaves
in the hallway. He lets me tie his shoes
around my ankles. Mum laughs and says my feet
are swimming in them. Next I like to fit
inside his raincoats dappled lightly
with old specks of mud.
At six o’clock on the dot
the news will come on and he will tell me that it is going to be
a marvellous day for ducks. That northerly will pinch just a little
so be sure to take an extra layer with you. On screen
he slides his hand down the North Island and I see
him hover just a moment above our house.
He blinks twice to tell me goodnight. 



Natalie Morrison is a recent graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. Some of her other poems have appeared in takahē and Starling magazines. She lives up 165 stairs in Aro Valley, Wellington.