Chapbook

A Chapbook of 21 items of short fiction and poetry, on memoir writing, mental health and place.
1.   Ginny
2.   Riding the waves
3.   Mash up 6
4.   Sylvie and me
5.   Blue Cardigan
6.   Rakino Island
7.   The Grandfather Clock
8.   Dreaming her way to not being here
9.   Moving wallpaper
10. Christmas alone: burying the year
11. Waiting at Hastings 1856
12. The Special One
13. The Craziest Place I ever worked in.
14. OVERDOSE
15. For my brother I cry
16. From poverty to peace
17. Waiheke Island
18. Black bird
19. Angela’s Jewellery Class
20. Letter to an ex-boyfriend
21. All the way she has bucked the trend

 

Fey, the dreaming one

 

Fey, the dreamy one.
catcher of stones and stories.
a river walker
across fresh polished stones.

as a baby, dreaming of her grandmother
leaning over her in a haze of blue and lavender
motes of colour and light,
already a painter of dreams.

Aware of the meaning of statues
Tara, Sarasvati, Shiva
sandalwood incense rising,
beckoning the Gods.

Barefoot on the grass
wearing moonstone rings
and a jade koru necklace
for new beginnings.

Imagination a keystone
turning the lock
to treasure.

She has suffered
shifts in circumstances
the wheel of change

She has suffered
the toll of sensitivity
feelings like full moon tides
pulling at her

sometimes drowning
in overwhelm

sorrow covering her
like a lake of hair
bowing her down

a Blake watercolour

She stands at a tiered gatepost
wondering what
visions will befall her
set her on a new journey,

what forms they will take,

what new directions her creations
will take her in.

Bucking the trend

All the way she has bucked the trend

Without a family or children of her own,

she was not suited to be a 24 hour mama,

to hear the baby cry for hours on end, or

to feed the child’s constant need for attention. 

 

it would have crushed her spirit

with her need for space, time alone.

 

She breaks the lineage, she breaks the line

choosing to follow her own road

whether it was for temperamental

reasons or psychological ones.

 

She was the first in her family to hold a university degree

which she began at 25.

All the way she has bucked the trend.

 

Looking like a student

in her op shop clothes from the 50’s and early 60’s.

 

Wanting to know the language of the student

only to reject the practice of analysis 

a year after finishing. 

 

Choosing to read

with her heart not her head.

 

Choices made in her thirties affect her life now,

Alone and not working due to psychological reasons.

Needing space out to do nothing, or to create and make.

 

Time out from work needed

whether from crisis or depression 

following the dark road through to wellness.

 

She was the first in her family to hold a university degree

It has taken to her fifties to choose the creative life.

Choosing to study, to learn and keep on learning the art

and craft of writing.

 

All the way she has bucked the trend

needing space out to do nothing, or to create and make.

All the way she has bucked the trend.

The Girl under the Umbrella

 

I once lived in a brick Victorian house with a plaster bow ornamenting the second storey window. It was a former railway managers house, but all its former glory had been stripped bare. It was now a basic two storey house with four bedrooms and pink skirting boards in the living room. There was no carpet on the floor, so when the local pub stripped out its carpet we took it to cover the bare living room floor. However, the carpet continued to smell of beer. A big black spider lived in the bathroom which we tolerated along with the cracked shower screen which never was fixed in our residency.

A mixture of flatmates moved through the house but it was my name and Benjamin’s on the lease.

There was the girl with translucent skin, who because of her food allergies could only eat a limited range of foods. Another girl moved in after her who did aerobics three times a week but then would come home and eat cake. Our most notorious flatmate was Raymond. Before he moved in an assortment of objects came before him, a TV among other electronic gear, a heater, a clock which then disappeared when he moved in. They most likely were stolen goods. Raymond had tattoos, in a time before it was cool, and a sign of being a criminal. His most striking feature was the anarchy sign tattooed on his third eye. When he moved in he was followed by his pregnant boxer dog dripping milk, and then the landlady materialised at that inopportune moment, which led to his eviction 2 weeks later.

He brought with him a set of drums which upset the neighbours. He borrowed my Echo and the Bunnymen record and would thrash to Blue Moon. If he liked that band he was ok in my books but as soon as he came, he had to leave, followed by letters from the police. I wonder how long he survived with his habit for alcohol and pills. Every so often I would run into him in my social circles and I had respect for the fact that he was not all bad as his appearance belied.

But then three times later we were burgled for our kitty money, a black goth dress I owned with a white cross sprayed across it, and once in the middle of the night, when we all were home. I was the only one to wake when my door was opened but could not see clearly without my contact lenses in. I felt something was wrong and got up half an hour later to find the back door open and gardening shears laid on the kitchen table like a weapon. It was scary but we could never prove it was our former criminal resident.

The house also survived a potential fire. It was a lazy Sunday morning. Benjamin was reading the Sunday newspaper and me feeling bored watching him read the paper all the way through decided to do something drastic. I grabbed the lighter by the gas cooker, sat back down and proceeded to light the edge of the paper. It went up so quickly he ran to the next room where our rubbish was stored and I imagined that getting set alight too but Benjamin had run outside and put out the fire.

One time we decided to get creative and make artworks for the stairwell. Benjamin had a man with an umbrella sheltering a girl (me) which made me feel secure with him. I took a photograph of him arms and legs outstretched in a large pipe in silhouette. To me, he was the circle of my whole world. I believed I loved him and he was the only one. But I was warned against this state of affairs by an older woman flatmate who was 27. She said I’ve watched you, and you can’t just have Benjamin as the centre of your world, you need other friends. She was divorced and knew a thing or two, but I couldn’t change my behaviour even when he started flirting and having other female friends. I wanted him.

He could be cruel and self centred those last six months. So one drunken night after being stuck at a work party and being teased by his female compatriots after he had flirted with them, I lashed out by sticking my fist through the glass surrounding our front door. I had walked home by myself. My actions scared our current flatmates, an accountant and engineer Lee and Warren. But everyone was too scared to say anything to me. It was the precursor to the mental illness that hit me after our break up.

Rakino Island

Where grass buries the seedling trees,
Where seagulls flap against the breeze,
sitting on a hill one hill back from the ocean
as the sea birds flap two feet above us
trying to catch the currents of air to set them into flight.
Where the air currents blow fiercely up the hill
rocking the pole house on stormy nights
as the cows mooed, gathering together
encircling the house wind-maddened.
It was a time to stay in
with candles the only light.
There was no electricity on this island of grass.
The trees long since lopped.
Sleeping when it got dark or trekking the hills
in the moonlight,
drinking Old Stoney ginger beer to keep us warm
as we gazed upon the waters with the moonlight on it.
One New Year a gateway of light drew near
coming off the sea right up to me
bathing my head with moonlight. What future
would light upon me I wondered?

We wandered like gypsies, it took a day to encircle
the island. I was clad in a white silk slip embroidered
with dragons, wearing jewel toned earrings, our faces
painted white, playing at being players.

Scooping the sea smoothed glass from the shallows,
red, yellow, green, blue
while “S” younger brother found old bottles in the low tide
near the run down house, once a mansion
now scribbled inside with psychedelia.
“S” collected the bones of a goat and a cow,
masculine trophys.
The island brought offerings and took away others
melting and deepening the shadows that stalked us
at seventeen and nineteen.

 

 

“S” was two years older than me. He lived in a haunted house with a staircase so narrow you had to walk sideways down the steps. He had a skinny punk rock cat, and a smokers compulsions, once swapping a calculator for his beloved camel cigarettes. The calculator lasted twenty years, our relationship eighteen months.

We lived through a seesaw of depression, first one, then the other, then saving the other, both lost, both fighting our pasts. I could not touch his physical heart, he would cry out in pain from his mother’s rejection. He was brought up by her sister in a foreign land down under, but he kept his Irish charm.

He would hide from the sun preferring to stay indoors, and I who had lived near the beach and had a healthy tan spent from a lifetime outside, went from tanned to as pale as him in one summer.

He loved eating bacon and eggs and would go to a place I knew later as ‘greasy spoons’.
On his table at home he always kept a bottle of worcestshire sauce to douse his fried food in.

After breakfast we would scour the shops for second hand finds. He collected secondhand penguin books with their classic orange covers searching for first editions.
His treasures were an old art deco radiogram and a picture of Medusa cutting off a man’s head.

I would search the shops for second hand dresses and coats. He took photographs of me wearing a 1940’s burgundy coat with my red roman sandals crossing a road, and in a diamond green dress which made me feel dreamy. We never thought to wash them first before wearing them, perhaps we absorbed something of their owner in them. I tried to imagine their owners and what they were like and often gave names to my dresses personalising them.

Our relationship ended in the grey twilight on the bleached boards of a small wharf. The boards looking rotten and broken so I was scared to step upon them. “It is over” he said. He did not have to say it twice. I did not try to stop him fading into the twilight of a winters day. What I had taken as love was mere convenience to him.

 

Rakino 2

Penny was a small sandy haired girl who studied to be a lawyer but was more suited to being a seamstress where her skill lay. I could not imagine how she would have the strength to be heard in court with her quiet little girl voice and small stature.

She and her sister shared a plot of land on Rakino Island. Their father built them a small hut with a deck. So once again in my twenties I could take the long journey in a small boat to this island of grass with Penny. We would pack Paul Newmans sauce to go with the pasta we would cook. All supplies had to be carried in.

She told me the ferryman wanted to marry me one night after he had knocked on the door inviting us to a party of crayfish and wine, but we were already snug in our sleeping bags. It was nighttime so we declined.

I imagined being a writer and queen of this domain. The beaches called me with their clear waters. The many walks I could take exploring this hilly island. But the ferryman was short and round with curly dark hair who dressed in blue overalls and did not appeal to me.

We visited a man who had a dream to have a house and olive groves and so it grew. He showed us the tin kennel overlooking a bay he had slept in before his dream materialised. He offered us cheese and olives. Here was a man I could imagine myself with but it was not to be. He was an advertising man with many dreams.
He opened a cafe in the city called Rakino’s which had island shaped tables and his hand picked olives.

 

With Penny we often talked about relationships and marriage, as we were in our twenties. She talked about Sidney who she had a crush on who lived in Sydney. And the man she was with who was well off but a pall hung over his house, his alcoholic mother. Would Penny ever be satisfied? And is that what I shared with her was this sense of dissatisfaction with our lives.

Rakino still calls me. This island haunts me as it was a part of my teenage years and twenties. I have lost touch with “S” and Penny by moving to a bigger island Australia.
It is a part of my first struggles with relationships, which I continue to struggle with today.

I painted a small water-colour painting of Rakino Island today and this is where these words come from.

Waiting at Hastings, England, 1856

I have waited for my true love to come to me on this grey morning,
The tide grows thin, the seagulls caw but still there is no sign of him.
In my small room of willow paper and wattle chair I cry his name
softly as to draw him in, but my hands do shake
and I feel weak as I do softly call him.
The draught that eases my disease is sitting on the dresser,
I grasp it quick just three small drops, dulls the pain.
Has he flown, he called me his grey dove,
to others charms, overflowing with charity and cheer
that amuse, and tickle his muse,
whereas I feign could be dying of heart sickness
and fear he will not be returning.

Blue Cardigan

Blue Cardigan

That day I chose to wear a blue cardigan borrowed from my mother.
Depth of it’s hue – a hymn to the heavy, late summer sky
waiting to fall.

I was running downhill, the hillside grassy and steep,
I was running in my pointy shoes,
A musical, alternative teenager
caught up in “The Dunedin Sound”
jangling guitars, leather jackets and hand knitted jerseys,
“The Chills”, “The Bats”, “The Verlaines”, “Sneaky Feelings”.
Absorbed by the sounds,
the strum of electric guitars and acoustic strings,
filling my heart, filling my eyes with tears,
blue doldrums, all in blue.

Falling like rain, all in blue, falling on the tin rooftops.
Rain pattering, searching for the comfort inside, containment
and warmth.

Seeking shelter from the black rain.
My mother’s words scar me still,
“You can’t”, “You should have”, “Why don’t you?”.
Her words made me feel she does not know me
or what I need.
Inside the small shed the storm bellows and drums, I shiver
like a scared dog. With dogs they say you do the opposite to humans
you don’t reward the fear you ignore it. But scared and alone
I try not to give into the fear that sent me running from my family.
Could I live a life like this, a life without fear”.

Leaving a world of silences
reading between the lines of my parent’s sentences,
Silent, withdrawn, shy
no place to speak my own words
except the journals I filled with so much emotion
swelling like a rolling sea, just beneath the surface of my mind.
Running away,
Running to shelter.

When I was 24 my boyfriend made a collage where I was sheltered
under his large umbrella.
I took a photo of him, through a pipe, the pipe contained his outline
arms and legs outspread
he was the circle and container of my world.
Until, he broke it.

A fancy dinner, A French restaurant, a waitress in on the game
she kept on filling up my glass of wine,
till drunk and sick inside/ he told me,
“It is over” as we got into his car.
Everything went red.
I imploded smashing and kicking at the windscreen, the doors
again and again.
Broken once again, no longer his passenger.

Moving once a year every year since I was born.
Where do I find my shelter, my sanctuary,
my green writing space,

my certainty in a world,
certain only of change.

My Grandparent’s House

We were kneeling together on the damp grass my mother and I. I was picking violets with my mother on this melancholy day. The dampness sucked up through my jeans making my knees cold. The damp earth reminding me my grandmother would soon be put into the earth. She had died 5 days ago in her sleep at the age of 89. It was the last time I would be here, as her house was going to be put up for sale.
It was a strange time, a time of grief. My mother was talking about how she used to pick violets on her parents farm when she was young girl. It was the first time she had offered me a glimpse of her past. She told me violets were placed by the Romans on their loved ones graves as a sign of everlasting affection, and to ensure their loved ones would rest in peace.
I wanted to capture my memories of this house which had been a safe haven for me as a child, me who had moved 17 times in 17 years with my family. This house and half acre garden was a place of security and stability we would visit every two weeks. I have wonderful childhood memories of it being summertime and playing amongst the daisies and fruit trees with my brother, gorging ourselves on strawberry guava’s staining our hands pink, and playing hide and seek with my brother.
I went into the house with my camera, it seemed darker now than how I remembered it as a child. The dark stained wood in the kitchen with the little window bringing in hardly any light. The bathroom lit only with a single bulb scared me as a child. Its big bath tub threatening to swallow me up. It was built next to the lean to, where the toilet was, so no natural light came in. The lean to, a long line of boards which to my child’s mind seemed unsteady as a ship. Could I brave that walk to the toilet.
I walked into the living room where in the late afternoon the sun would stun us turning the wooden floors and walls a warm honey gold. I loved the colour of this wood, New Zealand kauri. My father told us my grandfather had built this house in the 1930’s and bought the best kauri he could find.
I tried to take a photograph of the living room but my camera froze it would not click on to take a picture.
In the living room, winter as well as summer brought it’s own joys. I would sit as close as I was allowed by the fire, staring intently into the flames to find fire salamanders and fairies. Being offered minties and blackballs, old fashioned sweets, the minties I chewed and chewed as they got stuck in my back teeth. But I could not resist saying no to one more mintie. And sitting up like an adult playing poker with my grandfather, playing on the card table, a baize green fold up table which was only used for this purpose.
As I got older I would sit in the corner reading women’s magazines which did not really entertain me, but I was a reader so would read anything that came my way. The magazines concerned themselves with stories about the royal family and baking and crafts.
Their was a small side room full of decorative pieces in a wooden cabinet. Fans from Japan, a big circular ball of kauri gum, another slab carved and decorated to look like a bible, and a maori tiki carved from wood. There were also felt bags decorated with embroidery and a little black velvet pouch from which our grandfather would dispense money which gave us children much joy.
The middle room was the piano room with hard art deco chairs in brown and gold fabric. There was a standing upright piano made from rosewood so it gleamed a reddish colour. I would teach myself the basics of piano and also played made up tunes to be set to films and tv shows I had seen. I regretted later not having lessons and learning to play the piano properly. Sometimes my grandmother would play the piano and warble out a tune in the Victorian way.
On the other side of the hallway were the bedrooms. The formal bedroom which once had been my grandparents room now was the room we children would sleep in when we stayed overnight. It was a spooky room to us as young children, there were the oval Victorian pictures of my grandmothers parents looking over us. And a cupboard full of walking sticks we were afraid would rattle and walk off by themselves. My grandfather had lost a leg in WW1 so had a wooden leg and his bunch of walking sticks to help him walk. But it did not stop him tending his massive garden. It was a productive garden that his family was able to live off with a bit of bartering and sharing of food with his neighbours.
There was a 3 mirrored bureau also in that room on which sat bottles of scents and brushes and combs. I tried out scent no. 711 from a small green bottle but it was not to my taste, it was pungent and strong. In this room we had our chests rubbed with vasoline while we lay warm in bed if we had a cold. And once I had tumbled from the high bed in my sleep so after that chairs were set by the side of the bed to stop me falling out again.
The far bedroom facing west had been the twins room and in it were 2 single beds. My grandparents slept alone in each single bed, so as a child I could sneak in and cuddle up to my grandmother. And hear stories from my grandfather of his travels during the war. He would show us postcards of Egypt and Edinburgh, exotic sounding places.
No matter how hard I tried I could not get my camera to work that day. It felt like divine intervention, like my grandmother wanted me to keep the memories of that house inside me. And so I have been dreaming of that house over and over, many times throughout my adult life. The last time was two weeks ago.
It is one of my regrets that I have never owned my own home but I was also not made to work my full adult life, I have taken lots of breaks. So my grandparents house in a sense was the only one I owned. I have taken it into my memories and dreams. It wraps around me with a sense of security and stability I have never have found in the material world.