When he woke up it was dark

When he woke up it was dark.

The man didn’t really like the dark, he was rather afraid of it, but he decided to go for a walk because he could not sleep. ‘There is nothing to be afraid of’ he told himself. And so he went outside and down the street and then he decided to cross the road, and he was nearly at the other side when a car came along, and the car didn’t see the man.

Then the man was lying on the road in the night and he was feeling pain, but another feeling, a sort of tingling-all-over sensation as well. He looked at his legs and noticed that one of his bones was poking out, and there was something warm and sticky all over him and he realized that it must be blood. The man tried to move, but found he couldn’t. So he lay there in the dark and the blood and after a while he began to feel rather afraid, and he started to cry because he didn’t really like the dark. And also he was hurting.

But then the man looked at the sky, and it was nearly morning, and he remembered what he had told himself before he left, ‘There is nothing to be afraid of.’ He looked at the sky and the sky grew lighter and lighter and his blood became redder and redder, and he knew there was nothing to be afraid of because morning was coming. Morning. So he smiled, as his life leaked away, he smiled, and then everything went dark because he closed his eyes. Closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When he woke up it was dark.

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A Dusty Window

There is a cobweb in the corner. A small green spider scuttles over the outermost threads and is pounced on, devoured, by a pair of thick hairy legs. Not devoured, sucked. Poisoned. Left for later. You don’t see many little green spiders.

This little green spider had a family, fifteen brothers and twenty-six sisters. Just like in the story books, except these spiders didn’t wear little bonnets and aprons because that would just look stupid. They actually led a very straightforward spiderly life and strung webs out in the evening and ate midges and occasionally one another. They had no qualms about cannibalism because blood always tastes better if it is not your own. These little green spiders had plenty of blood.

Just before this particular little green spider met his demise he had been knitting a pair of socks. Not because he wanted to wear the socks, but because he was experimenting with his identity. Someone had once told him that knitting was the path to true enlightenment, and being the open-minded little green spider that he was, he decided to give it a try. One sock was larger than the others. He used to wear it as a balaclava. This impaired his vision somewhat, and hence he failed to see the trip threads or the two thick and hairy legs, which were attached to two very lethal fangs, until it was too late.

This little green spider always tried to take an upbeat view of life. Hence, he experienced the tingling burn of the venom with a detached fascination. ‘How interesting,’ he thought. ‘I wonder what is going on?’ Then his legs fell off and with them his socks he had worked so hard to produce and the little green spider felt a pang of sorrow for all the effort he had invested in producing such fine footwear.

This development did, however, give the little green spider a moment to contemplate his existence without his legs and socks and other associated baggage. At this moment he happened to notice the dust on the window and the way the individual grains kaleideskoped themselves together and as this was the last thing the little green spider ever saw, he invested huge significance in the one blue spot of grime amongst the brown-red dust.

For Magritte

the day sounds lullaby blue
and fills the mouth
with horizon

through the
hush-hush of the lapping water
the wind is holding its breath
quiet
serene

faraway silence
thickens
in the summer noon
everyone is sleeping
(waiting)
just a moment in time

a leaf comes to rest
gentle
on the windowsill
time a looped
de ja vue

and She
still as stone
Madrid Red stains her temple
Salty, tepid

She,
alone in the blue

After

That night she slept naked and alone,
waking to a diluted sky
and swollen eyelids where mascara should have been.

Double duck-taped and boxed in the corner,
shelves full of memories
The lives between the pages fading sepia,
draining colour year by year
as time sped up.

The walls were bare
yet the ghosts of building blocks,
of family bickering and of laughter filled the space,
stifled the room and she had to open all the windows
just to make room to think.

If only all ghosts were so easily banished
But her worry dolls had gone missing in the shift
And with no one to talk to the words ate each other,
Ate themselves,
Then ate up her tongue

If Only

If only, if only, the South wind moans
I could penetrate coats, get right into bones
I’d take over bodies from deep inside
As the glint of the chill crept into their eyes
I’d banish their warmth and then, in lieu,
I’d tinge their flesh with a blueish hue
Though they may shiver and protest
It’d be too late once I’d made my nest
Once I’d found a hold for my icy tooth
I’d still their hearts and preserve their youth,
If only….

Three Blind Mice

Following Methven’s scarecrow trail, the last thing I expected was for nursery rhyme stars to move in with me, but while the straw figures are now long gone, it seems some of the critters are here to stay. Three, to be exact, although they appeared to have had cataract surgery as they were definitely not blind.

Cooler weather and weatherboard houses seem to be a recipe for mice around here, which has been a new experience. While we had plenty of mice in my flat in Auckland, they were all of the computer-gaming variety, so my experience of the rodents was limited to nursery rhymes about blind ones and the film Stuart Little.

The real life version is nothing like in a story book or a nursery rhyme. Instead, our first encounter was more like a scene from a horror movie. It went something like this: Dark and stormy night. Protagonist home alone, minding her own business. Mysterious zombie scratching sounds heard. No sign of source. Protagonist left wondering if she has gone mad until suddenly a hoard of rodents batter down the door and devour her whole.

OK, so the last scene may be a slight embellishment, but the discovery of droppings after a spooky sleepless night sealed the deal – it was time to buy a mouse trap.

I don’t have the best track record with traps. Last time I dealt with one it was to dispose of the rat in my parents’ attic. Dispose of it I did, but I was subsequently discharged from pest duty after throwing away Dad’s best trap, rat entwined. I resolved that this time, I would get it right.

The mouse traps available at the local hardware store looked more like giant clothes pegs than a pest control device, with their moulded grey plastic, spring loaded action and no-touch release. At first I was rather suspicious as they didn’t look very sensitive. Then I made the mistake of putting my finger in the vicinity of the jaws whilst taking one off the shelf, and all my fears were eclipsed by a shooting pain. While testing a trap with your fingers may not be the preferred method of ascertaining function, any doubts as to its effectiveness were allayed.

Three mice later, the traps are still going strong and the night time noises have ceased. While mice are an autumn fact of life down here, I’m still hoping that the only mouse in our place from now on stays firmly attached to the computer. Still, it might pay to keep a carving knife handy, just in case…

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

The Facts of Life

Living in a rural community, it’s hard to avoid the facts of life. Lambing season comes and goes, calves are reared, the stock truck heads to the meatworks and the cycle comes full circle. Over the past few weeks I have observed the circle in action, where it has had less to do with the birds and the bees and more to do with a couple of mammals with impeccable timing.

The first life-or-death incident had us getting up close and personal with a sheep, and not in the ways that Australian jokes would have you believe. We were walking along the RDR, minding out own business, when we heard a ‘Splash’, closely followed by a ‘Maaaaaaa.’ Closer inspection revealed a bundle of bleat knee high in the mud and very stuck.

We were going to have to do something – but what? Our initial efforts made it clear that pulling alone simply wasn’t going to cut it. Sheep, it turns out, are quite heavy, and a wet sheep can rival the bench press selection at any flashy Auckland gym. We needed a new tactic. Cue kiwi ingenuity 101, aka two dog leads and some cleverly applied physics. One harness contraption and two very confused dogs later, the bedraggled sheep shambled off as far away from the water as possible to dry off. Judging by the number of sheep carcasses that showed up in the RDR as the water level dropped over the next week, our sheep was one woolly mammal with a cosmic wristwatch, alright.

The second mammal I encountered, although more commonly associated with watches, was not so lucky. Instead, the hare that crossed the path of my station wagon will now be eternally late. This proved to be a bonus for my friend and I, both in terms of kudos and cuisine. While the boys were at home trying on their new waterproof gear and studying a DVD about stalking deer, we were bringing home dinner. So far our accidental hunting has proved more fruitful than any of their rugged bush walks, which suggests that the preservation instinct of the deer still trumps the carefully edited cinematography of even the best ‘How To Hunt’ video guide.

In the end you win some and you lose some, but I’ve learnt to always make the most of the situation at hand. Rural life is one big Lion King chorus, and I’m slowly getting to know some of the words.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

The Man in The Desert

The man in the desert lay on the dunes
It was hot
A hot day
So hot it made him shiver
Oh, for a breeze…

Then he dreamed.
For a while the man thought he was on cruise ship
That seemed like a nice place to be
Tuxedo Suit
A different lady for every dance
He smiled as he sipped his champagne,
Clark Gable of the Seven Seas,
Breathed in the salt on the air
Tasted the ocean

If only the light were water
He thought to himself as he awoke,
As the white plains shimmered in the heat
Then I would never have thirst again

When the sun spoke
The man listened
Sing me a poem
Said the sun
And so the man sang

He sang of valleys
And battles
And ancestors
And ghosts
And the rain

And when he was done
The sun cried

‘Did I make you sad?’
asked the man
but he got no reply

So the man shut his eyes
Shut his eyes
And listened to the thunder

Last Friday Night

Last weekend I visited Auckland, city of sails and signs and sounds. Come Friday night, we headed for that holy grail of gaudiness and over-stimulation: The Arcade. No matter what your favourite colour there is a game to match, complete with looped theme tune and special effects lighting. From Dance Dance Revolution to Air Hockey and Photo Booth, this parody of city life provided the colour and bustle and crowds and sensory overload that I have missed.

Growing up, such busyness was always just background noise – something that I was not consciously aware of but was nonetheless slightly comforting. It was not until spending time away from the bright lights and street corner preachers of Queen Street that I realised how much I had been screening out. Impromptu street theatre? Ice cream parlour karaoke? How did I not notice these before?

Ashburton, with a smaller population, has less on the radar, but there are still entertainment options, many of which you would never get in the city. Take the cow milking competition in the Tinwald Tavern, for instance. The concept was simple: whoever could extract the greatest volume of milk from their’ cow’s udder by hand in one minute was the winner. Being a city girl, I had never really considered the possibility that bovine mammaries might form the basis for a competitive sport, let alone one that was spectator friendly. It certainly gave new meaning to the term ‘brown eyed beauty’.

A recent chat to a local revealed yet another unique entertainment form run in the vicinity: the Methven sheep racing. Not content with annual motorcycle races, the town went one step further, introducing theRacing Baa Blacks to the repertoire of street circuit events. Auckland tried to stage a similar event as part of the Rugby World Cup parade last year, but it was shouted down as a no-go. Sheep don’t know how to obey traffic lights, and their droppings would have posed a hazard to inner city cycle couriers. While the question of droppings remains, contending with red lights is not a problem in Methven.

Perhaps the rural nature of Mid Canterbury has been sending out subliminal messages, because my big city arcade visit concluded with an equine twist. I couldn’t resist trying out the plastic horse video game from the early 1990s, and although the realism of the ride was slightly lacking – I am yet to hear a real horse announce ‘stop crashing me!’ – my choice of entertainment option does say something about the way my large animal horizons have broadened over the last year. Who knows, next time I’m in Auckland it could be to pitch a new game to the arcade, based on competitive cow milking. ‘Udder Frenzy’ could be the next big thing…

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

>O<

Language is not transparent
As a rule
Viewed through the centre of an ‘O’
Reality is skewed
(Glasses are brainwashing tools).

‘The Wonderful O’ went out of print
Some years ago
Since then
The ‘O’ has been out for revenge
Waiting to strike it hides
Finding refuge in our platitudes
Oh dear
Oh no

Oh well