new zealand electronic poetry centre

Paula Green

online works


syllable by syllable she decorates herself
rhymed with seagrass or saffron fuelled
by the jumble of paper honey semolina
the walls a sticky trap so close so complete
warm yellow the whole year round
routines arrange this place
the worn carpet the pungent
connections between art and artifact
she carries tokens of her existence
scouring verse culinary herbs yellow ochre
the pattern of work on a new scale
she is the heart of this occasion

a bleached book holds her daily life
Monday washes Tuesday a little cabinet
yellow with thought yellow with complication
keeps her devotion shining obsessive
a cup for the indoor wisdom
set in the language of housekeeping
she lays out the history of the mantelpiece
a retreat describing magic or monotony
a juxtaposition so perfectly freighted
she contemplates terrible words
her true existence variety itself
her beloved china stained with ritual

indoors and away from that thick sun
a reprise expands the cupboards and paint
rich as endurance she walks through prose
here are the heirlooms the kinship beyond words
here are the remedies the tribute to constant love
in this room with its faculty for provision
the decay sufficient the deterioration
fuses questions discomfort and she learns
that her heart bleeds like burnt butter
she is cooking a supper for herself
observing her back her face her written life
in the eloquent grain of a kitchen table

this is the woman who will infuse ordinary messages
with a leaf of shadow or decoration or distance
with the paint still wet still fluid
she likes to think of disobedience between
things a reunion silence a parable
as though the gift of feeling can shape a house
an island for irrevocable mediation where the door
the mysterious interval between here and there
is subtle cadenced associated with years
‘let me rub your back my darling’
she lives among episodes endings
a yellow blot squeezed dry

where is she?
how will I recognise our mutual links?
when we meet my curiosity my slim bag
includes records of family travel pencil portraits
dreams in history voices born at the same time
where is she? warmed by marigolds
she will tell the story of actual rooms
smoothing the sheets and blankets deeply moved
she is everything to me describing the loss
the distant part that nourishes heart
the writing following even further to the edge
as if housekeeping and storytelling dominate
as if she flees from home until dusk

we share skeletons recipes grief
the dark underside of peace hidden in her house
‘I need the trees at least some kind of shelter’
the kauri nikau rimu that I have known
spell out a continuity an antidote a foreignness
snug in memory my repositories of life and death
‘I was born at dawn with high winds’
her story a jewel-like intimation of young eyes
waging war against uncertainty humility
she still harbours the gestures of sacrifice
jaundiced this woman this appearance
fending off my old wounds my tight arrival

nuances create a longed-for place in her silence
different rooms describing the previous summers
the heavy footsteps part of an indoor rhythm
a house-bound moment how the tap drips the fridge hums
‘I loved the view from my bedroom window’
we could climb the hill together I believe we could
I am homesick for the ocean cicadas the native bush
but marooned in her community in no mood for light
I touch the mantelpiece her solid clock
reading the perfectly carved story
domestic detail ecstasy rebellious events
an older generation knitting stout threads

all I see are the yellow sunflowers
flawed with a charge of defiance in each sweet petal
a confirmation of my own peculiar reservations
she painted portraits of herself half-dressed
without signalling the barest diversion
without interrogating the disturbing echoes
now she speculates endlessly about the lost homes
sitting amidst scraps of material the magazines
the china plates printed with buttercups
I visit her to tune her guitar
to comb matted hair or remove a cigarette
she is reading from The Golden Notebook

her half-dead weight rests upon my contemplation
squeezes my lungs until I scarcely breathe
grips my wrists until fingers fall limp
forces sameness old pain down
my throat my voice dulled separate
I need a front window beside the desk
an enlarged view to mend my scarred body
this morning she laughed peeling Kerikeri oranges
squeezing the juice buttering toast
‘I couldn’t sleep a wink I don’t know where to be’
her navigation through a homely grid
smashes doors castles sanctuaries

all the houses have blurred into one
she projects floors openings closures
knowing her need of repetition anchors
the home in rhythmic colour
yellow as elms willows the local kowhai
yet with satisfaction she lived in foreign cities
where the art of change perhaps chance
dismissed symmetry a braided home
a life claiming madness
a life wedded to disaster
‘I will speak of bones and plates’
but out of love her voice recites street names

I am recognising the signs
at the centre of the house
the woman distorts the past sick
of rituals her own true self
thrown to the wolves cast in exile
as though the window eclipses any hope of sun
the light layers of a summer afternoon recall
her birthright so delicious so distant
‘I lived jammed against a Wellington fault line’
‘I lived beneath the rumble of cable cars’
her captive face the bloody aftermath
tenderly I bind her hair with ribbon

out of love her voice stuns me
she packs away the Poole china
our interwoven lives a matter of hard imagery
beginning in the house I sweep and dust
‘I remember at last the city was over the rim of the hill’
she walked through the Botanical Gardens
disguising her body and spirit
she herself propelled by secrecy
the wind in the trees alluring
‘here I belong I don’t belong here’
her whole body dreaming of flight
the squealing paintings so fragrant

my bare warm feet on a Wellington pavement
just as I had dreamed a million yards of thread
leading me to her she walked in the woods
restored to life is she stretched and dried?
the history of her women reviving me
she is asleep her sofa my invention
her death my inability to eat or breathe
wreathed in travelling clothes or the hue of pregnancy
the woman playing blues on a piano
the woman consuming cakes and pleasure
writing festive sentences in a strange language
the soft part of my story comforts her

syllable by syllable I decorate myself
rhymed with grapefruit or saffron fuelled
by the clutter of paper honey open wounds
the walls are home to artworks
audible noise the whole year round
routines that dwell in our place
the bare wood the connections
between art and artifact splendid
I carry tokens of my existence
buttery verse culinary herbs cadmium yellow
the lightness of work on a new scale
lungs or bone or blood or water

Paula Green

Last updated 24 August, 2005