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Frankie McMillan
New Zealand

Moka's Utu - Penny Howard
Frankie McMillan is a short story writer and poet.In 2005 she was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Todd Bursary. Her first book, The Bag Lady’s Picnic and other Stories was published by Shoal Bay Press. In 2009 her  poetry collection, Dressing for the Cannibals, was published by Sudden Valley Press. In that same year she came first in the New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition. Frankie teaches creative writing at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.

How we dress    

When my father took out Violet Funk he didn’t realise she had two little boys. I
thought they were rats, he said. Why do they jump up and down on the back seat?
The boys turned their faces sideways. Their dark eyes cut holes in the vinyl. Is
that a yellow star on their jackets? my father said. Violet Funk blew smoke out
the window. She said everyone had a right to their own private life.   


Because my window faced the road, people often stared. Sometimes they would take a photograph of me, behind my desk. In turn I would write about them. The
Japanese girls, their water carriers around their waists. The Japanese boys who
shyly took photographs of the house then tip toed backwards to the road. When
night came I opened the window. I spoke to a tree. It put a finger to its lips. 

Fort Cautley, 1889

The disappearing gun retracted as surely as an elephant’s penis in freezing
The disappearing gun was made to kill the Russians.
The disappearing gun was powered in the pit by cranks, cogs and gas 
Not even Houdini wanted the disappearing gun.

When the war comes I will hide him under my skirt, a trick passed down from my 
grandmother as she sat on her milking stool. He will knot his hair in lace
pull the thread from his mittens, Fandango, the fool. When the land burns black
he will run down the road, his belly full of milk, the clouds overhead thick as
white petticoats.   
After the rumour of a naval invasion we loaded a team of horses with equipment
and proceeded uphill. It was all hush hush what we were doing. The signalman
knew of course and I daresay he told his wife. We buried two planes in the
tunnels or thereabouts. In the end there was no invasion. The signalman’s wife
hung out her washing.Her eyes flashed something we all couldn’t get enough of.