Emma Harris
New Zealand

Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016

After the Sunday roast was Dad's time for
gluing all the cracks and chips that had surfaced that week.
My brother and I were taught that when things
smashed you had to collect all the pieces in a tissue and
hope that you could match up edges and nicks.
Fingers crossed we hadn't overlooked a
sliver of the broken ashtray,
or the vase we knocked off the sideboard,
or that dolly's finger hadn't been vacuumed up by Mum,
who got impatient with us
grovelling around on the floor for
bits and pieces when people were
walking around barefoot and
anyone could cut themselves and then there would be
blood and it might get on the rug and it never comes out.

At the dining table Dad’s tools were spread out with
surgical precision on a sheet of newspaper:
plastic scrap for mixing, headless matchstick for stirring,
bent hatpin for spreading.
The bitter tang of Araldite called us from our rooms
and we approached cautiously,
waiting for him to raise his eyes from the
ceramic elephant before him,
our fidgets amplifying Mum's
clatter-banging in the kitchen.

We learned quickly that not everything can be mended:
some things are so brittle the join just won't hold;
some, broken on edges and at corners,
will re-shatter at the slightest pressure;
others might resemble what they once were
but will never be the same.
The attempted repair will be too obvious,
so, eventually, it must be disposed of -
Nothing more than
a waste of glue and time.

One of many apples

In a Pak 'n' Save line,
inside a thousand
discordant blips and bleeps,
I saw myself in context,
as one of the billions:
an item on the conveyer to wherever.
This single apple I’m here to buy
teeters as it travels and the world
both closes in and expands out -
beyond the rim -
becoming at once everything
and nothing.
A prickling, bloodless vertigo
flushes through
and I find myself looking down to my toes
as they square up against grubby lino:
just to be sure.

I file through the checkout,
key in the numbers,
all too ready to take the apple home
to my child,
who’s still fortunate enough to be
the centre of the universe.

Emma Harris lives in Torbay and teaches literature and theory of knowledge at Kristin School. She has previously published in Southern Ocean Review and Poetry New Zealand, and has contributed poetry to a mixed media exhibition, 'Mixed Metaphors', at Corban’s Art Gallery in Auckland.