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Photography: Sarah Reed
Janis Freegard

Janis Freegard was born in South Shields, England, but has lived in New Zealand most of her life. Her poetry has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Poetry NZ, The North (UK), Turbine, Glottis, JAAM, Rain Dog (UK) and Surface Online. She also writes short fiction and won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 2001. She lives in Wellington.

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spiders determinedly
shroud the walls
this one must surely be a leaf
that one has wrapped mosquitoes
all along the clothesline

they wait on the porch

how much of your
spider quota
might you have eaten now –
the ones that crawl
into your mouth
when you’re sleeping?


Some things aren’t meant to be understood:
Like electricity or war
You know they’re going on somewhere
But it’s best not to think about it
It could make your hair curl

Ann explains the turtle theory of light:
Behaving neither like a wave nor a particle
Light is more like a great string of turtles
Each holding the next one’s tail in its mouth
Like the pin in a grenade

What they do when they get to a light switch is
Anybody’s guess

The Slattern

She hasn’t driven her vacuum cleaner around the rooms;
the dust sits thick.
Piled up dishes will be taken care of soon.

Hillocks of washing swell and lie in ambush;
windows are opaque with grime;
the fridge’s fruiting moulds are eager to be let loose.

Newspaper castles yellow in the sunny afternoons;
the bottle stack threatens;
a compost bucket barely contains its ooze.

Blue emerges from an ancient plastic tube
atop a slimy sink.
The slattern sings. Loudly and out of tune.


she plucks out
each eyebrow hair
one by one
with platinum tweezers

and stands them up
on the black lacquer dressing table:
her row of soldiers
first line of defence

above them, framed
in the oblong mirror:
her deforested forehead
wondering eyes
inconsequential nose
the fleshy lips protected
by a layer of down
(now that would have to go)
her smooth neck
her far too animal body