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Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

Mere & Child - Penny Howard
Ruth Arnison lives and works in Dunedin. She is the editor of Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ), an arts in health charity which distributes free poetry cards every season to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices.


after Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

Gurrumul’s voice aches through the kitchen.
A bellbird chatters outside, two natives
telling stories.

Muted sounds; the neighbour’s lads shooting
hoops, an ambulance siren playing
its own tune.

A coolness from the forest weaves in through
the window.  Cats snarl over territory,
staunch centurions.

Screams signal the standoff is over. The bellbird
is silent, the lads are called indoors. Branches
shadow the kitchen floor.

Gurrumul’s voice remains, notes shivering across
the Tasman, echoing sorrow, loss. Storm
clouds close out the night.

Wukun – storm clouds

Pavlova prep

The sun’s throwing light on the weeds, the grass
is flaunting its growth, and the windows
are blinded by dirt.

I’m in the kitchen yearning outwards

The younger son is expected at 6. Weed free
gardens, manicured lawn and spotless windows
don’t even figure on my ‘to do’ list.

I promised a pav for his 18th

Once the separation is complete I gather props,
a cushion, a book, a clock. I sit, open my book,
and the beating begins.

I’m on the roof of the world, following

Ed edging over a crevasse. As he continues the
climb my clock rattles a warning, the egg whites
have reached their peak.


Shakespeare & Co

Scooters unzip the stalled traffic. Simmering
cars wait as a coach driver unpacks
his guide book tourists.

Autumnal air sifts coolness through the
window boxed geranium leaves.
A quartered hour strikes.

The American assistant answers every
questioning intake of breath with
Je ne parle pas Français.

She leans out to water the 2nd floor geraniums.
English voices rise from the pavement
below, cursing this Paris mist.

She steps back into a cornered shadow,
grins at me and whispers –
C’est la vie!


She passed the Migraine Specials when Christmas
shopping, skirted around that aisle.

Didn’t even bother collecting a, have one now, avoid
two later voucher.

But they won’t be ignored. They’ll find you at their
convenience, then

hit you for a six, more dependable than the Black Caps.
They tumbled into her New Year,

Twizel seen from a different perspective. Unaided by
alcohol, mountains slid

from their bearings, tussocks waved unbecomingly.
There were no rules so

she couldn’t complain they didn’t play fair. But
when they shook her off her feet,

stomach erupting volcano-like, she started searching
for a level playing field.

A lapcat

A cat on your lap is warmer than a laptop,
its purr deeper than the intermittent fan.
The fan doesn’t have a content sound,
although it’s cooling the contents.

A laptop doesn’t hiss at other laptops,
roll in the middle of a busy road, or
bring small live creatures indoors
as offerings.

A cat on your lap doesn’t bother you
with messages from widows with 7
children or daily news of million
dollar winnings if you’ll just .......

A laptop doesn’t hang around 5pm ankles
demanding a top up or, leave furballs
for blind naked night-time feet
to discover.

A cat on your lap never asks for a
password. She knows there is one
universal password and she
has mastered it perfectly.