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Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

Taipari O Maraea - 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). For information about the latest Poems in the Waiting Room project see
Off the edge

He writes about shooting stars, soaring eagles, snuffling
night creatures and home grown goodness all viewed
from his back door.

And I look out our back door at the target practice tin cans
dying in the yard, multiplying car bodies, glass
mountains of empties and

there’s no beauty there. Only stumps from trees the old man
chainsawed cos the bloody dawn chorus
pissed him off

and iron sheets staggering against each other replacing
the hedge cos he couldn’t stand them
filthy hedgehog creatures.

Nothing grows in the abandoned vege garden. He reckons
if it don’t come in 500g frozen packs then
it ain’t vege.

So I look further and see the city hills grazed by industrial
buildings with orange‘n red barns in the fore-ground
unclaimed by farmers.

We’ve no shooting stars in our night sky, just shootings
that make you an instant star on the box
and no exotic birds

apart from the helicopters joining in the night search for
desperate bodies who’ve thrown themselves
off the edge.

The escapeologist

You were the Houdini of the south,
extricating yourself from leather belted
bags, and tight situations.

Hanging upside down from A and P
show cranes you scared and
delighted the crowds.

Tomorrow they’re nailing down
your coffin. I can’t see you
getting out of that.

Before the MRI scan

Before the MRI scan the Dr breezes
through set questions. 
Have you 

a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter
defibrillator, a neurostimulator, any foreign
metal objects, shrapnel or bullet wounds,
dentures/teeth with magnetic keepers or
any other implants that involve magnets?

I drift backwards
to his parting shot

Don’t take this personally, it’s just,
it’s just, I’m not attracted
to you anymore.

and wonder

if I should tell the Dr that
although I’m totally unattractive
I do have shrapnel wounds?

On Wanaka’s Millennium Track

Rabbits are as scarce as pounamu. Two
years ago, the hills writhed with them.

We make way for cyclists, call Good
Morning greetings.  In Te Reo Maori
class they said,

weave the language through your day
until it becomes natural. There’s a
shyness in airing Morena or Kia Ora.

You know, he says, I can tell this isn’t
Oxford Street. You wouldn’t greet
everyone you passed there.

How did Oxford St talk itself into our
surroundings? Maybe my chatter
about underground

hiding rabbits transported him homewards.
We pausebefore jumping a creek.
Hey bro, I laugh, mind the gap.

The coat

He wants it gone. Lost count
of the times he’s chucked it.

Always next morning like some
biblical thing it’s risen again,

back hanging in the old shed
by the outside dunny.

We mustn’t forget, she whispers
in response to his glowers.

All those boys, all those boys
we mustn’t forget.

Christ, if she’d been down those
trenches she’d know

you wouldn’t need no damn coat
as a reminder.