new zealand electronic poetry centre


Janet Charman

online works

core sample

first there were the subbies    with their dogs
amiability/menace in the tray of the ute

nothing in writing    a handshake away
‘Better finish it mate’ the building inspector says
‘Be round again in a fortnight’

poking the second chance rose prunings in under the wire tie fence

the devil’s finger in the heart of the formal front garden

embedded between cabbage tree seedlings thrown from a great parent’s
last flowering

the neighbour chopped the palm off when the virus took hold
‘Nothing you can do’    though we sprayed

don’t suck the orange funnel in the shed
ranks of lolly bright bottles
arm yourself with the toll free poison centre number
ipecac   or death

OK forget the garden

look at this private’s house promoted sergeant’s quarters

two rooms each side    a peashooter hall    the lean-to
your ablutions down the back

we’ve made it so you go galloping along a return veranda
into the narrows of the lounge

where the old wood stove went for years
and she did all her own bread on it

but the part that was the kitchen we pulled out
that was the original scullery
and the stack of bricks which was the wetback   is piled at the survey peg
on the midpoint where the wall will go
when the developer subdivides    when we sell the place
for our Guaranteed Retirement Income

what about a raised pergola in place of the underwater driveway
we dug out
to cement in the twentyfive dollar smashed cup with the wading bird on it

because the garage won’t do there in the view
better be crazy paving

now our second largest asset will be carported in the squeeze past
on the south side    where we can’t watch it rusting out

then there’s the living in it part

take in the tingle up your arm
wet from the nappy bucket when you switch the shed light off
and the whole food moon booms yellow across the section

overwhelming the television snacks crackling onto the deck
through the wonky french doors we swapped for a dozen of beer
and the privet’s scenting everything
bushing ebulliently along the boundary
embracing the Chicken Spot wrappers thrust in its foliage
where the council made the opening when the water pipe burst
and the man said ‘We don’t touch anything your side of the connection
call a plumber’

and you don’t have to be a Conthumpian Lawyer to fix a bit of pipe
but now the hot water takes as long to run as an appeal to the Privy Council

so set the timer for ten minutes
and walk out to where the brown window envelope arrives and arrives
in the characterless letterbox

and she pays it immediately    immediately
though he’s told her i don’t know how many times to wait
till the twentieth of the month
and by then there’s a really deep bath    too hot to get into
and the fish kite floats on the driveway for the first child’s birthday
and the second child’s birthday drifts by    unphotographed
tangled in their good intentions
while she’s insisting this isn’t the second child    but the last
because here comes the low iron woman    the no iron woman
hanging up the Yves Saint Laurent shirt on the floor
where they always hang everything except the clothes they sleep in
and the original art leaning against the skirtings    waiting for a screw

until one night he arrives home to find Marie Antoinette
exhausted with cake and talk    in the ruins of an afternoon tea
and he thinks    ‘Lucky for some’    as she says    ‘notice anything different?’
while he’s searching for the Vital in a tidy fridge
to make his lunch    to take to work    to forget at the last moment
for them to eat    ‘Get us a four’n’twenty would you? Make it two’

and they find his sandwiches have unsuspected condiments
bread and butter pickles    green tomato relish
they have no call for mustard grains    they go for generic spreads
peanut butter on the doorstep with the voices of Bert and Ernie
bringing you these messages from the U.S.A. in the alphabet

and she rereads the letter from her mother    containing the burglary brochure
the police put out   advising   ‘Don’t open your door’ ‘Rehearse your escape’
‘Some women find that screaming succeeds where quiet talk won’t’

later she’s lying in bed lusting for the Wedgwood blue velvet curtains
massed over the mezzanine handrail at Bazza’s Auctions
Under New Management    ‘lovely bit of cloth that’
‘looking for anything in particular

the velvet whirrs across the windows in her head
two hundred dollars the pair    and they’re gone    so it has to be
the gold velveteens    from Beryl’s
‘And really that’s saved you a hundred and eighty bucks’
and putting in a bay window for the waves to wash over

look at it this way    look at the cost of the curtain track alone
look at the baby waking up and rattling the bars of her cot
and coming into the big bed where she mouths the world just as she likes
and we want it all too
a well


© Janet Charman

Last updated 11 May 2001