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Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

Tui Taonga 1-5 Penny Howard
Ruth is the admin assistant for a research team at the Dunedin School of Medicine. Her poems have been published in literary journals, anthologies, and ezines in NZ, Australia, the UK and US. She is the editor of Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ).

On the outerskirts of Alex, willows weep over
white crosses adorned with plastic
roadside flowers.

Lambs, the ones unsuccumbed to snow, shake
their bodies in readiness for their sunset
salsa through the daffodils.

Roxburgh, snowflakes smother the windscreen.
Wipers work overtime ensuring a crystal
clear view.

Beaumont; where the boys worked that summer,
abandoning theodolites at night to jump into
the Clutha, surveying the sky on their backs.

A break at Lawrence to visit the drapery and
buy a lotto ticket, claiming it’s here
we’ll find gold

Then, we’re so close we just keep going. Home
to worldly worries, a junket of mail, and a full
load of washing.

Different strokes

Every school holidays they journeyed upstream
towards Dunedin and the fat guy.

Before they reached the pool she was sinking, fear
and fright swimming in her gut.

Her silent pleas to Tangaroa to disclose his
perfected breathing technique sank unanswered.

So it was water-gulping stretches for that handrail,
listening out for his tapping stick.

A stomach full of butterflies couldn’t help perfect
that or any other stroke.

On release, she’d float downstream to the library,
climb those narrow stairs,  and dive

into books, immerse herself in a fantasy world
blotting out the tomorrows.

Years later she still couldn’t swim, but reading,
that was her life saver.

After a rainy day

She was candyfloss pink.
T shirt, tutu, tights, handbag,
feathered clips, gumboots and wand.

She waved it at the cars. They stopped
as she clomped over the pedestrian crossing
clutching her kindy painting.

People are smiling, she said. I think
my outfit makes them happy. I ‘spect I look
like a marvellous sunset after a rainy day.