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Monday, August 13, 2007

As my work has veered in new directions since I last updated this blog, I've decided to move to a new blog site
http://chinglish-renee.blogspot.com/

All poems, prose and pictures will remain on this site (for as long as Blogspot lets me) as a reflection of past work, but the new site will contain work-in-progress and musings of a more 'literary' nature (ooo-er.)

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 9:20 PM

Friday, November 18, 2005

My Room

computer
hums
vacant
its monitor
blank
stares down
half a twin tower
of cheap shelving
threatening to explode
on a crash diet of Lonely Planet
and recipe books
new poetry journals
squeezed for space
voices small
in the wasteland
a calendar
ticks away the days
without gold stars
for good behaviour
the carpet grooved
from the ceaseless pacing
of wheeled chairs
and lamps that turn on
with no inspiration
tumbled shopping bags
of detritus
a refugee camp
a guitar
listless
in a corner

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 2:30 PM

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My next story. Any comments, especially critiques, are gratefully received. Oh and - if any of these characters seem familar to you, you're probably right :-.).

Desperado

She feels as if she is about to drown in a tide of humanity, one that surges out and threatens to swallow her as the sliding doors roll open. She forces herself to take a step onto the sea blue floor. The dots on the carpet blur, seem to whirl around her sandal. First one step, then another. The vortex of voices suck her in.
-if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you -
- crazy? I can’t take that through -
- hold this while I find the –

She does a clumsy breaststroke through the bodies, feels her way along the ropes dragging the heavy bag behind her. Faceless voices. Voiceless faces. A sudden space in front. A man waves. He seems very far away. “Excuse me!”

He’s wearing a gun-gray uniform, standing to attention behind a wall-like counter. He looks like a cardboard cutout. She wonders idly what would happen if she suddenly reached up and gripped his shiny satin tie. The numbers flicker red as she places her suitcase on the slick steel scales.

“And where are you going today?” the man asks. He sounds forced and jovial.
“Auckland,” she says. She finds her passport at the top of her handbag and places it on the desk.
He ruffles briskly through it. “And what are we going to do there, Miss –“ he finds the right page, and flickers his fingers over the computer keys. “ – Wu? Going back home?”

Home. The word floods through her, mocking her fragile defences, threatening to collapse them like so many sandcastles. Only a few hours ago she had clung to the anticipation of this moment, ached to get on the plane. Home, as if it would solve all her problems. As if it would wake her up from this dream, as if it would bring him back.

Luckily the man doesn’t seem to require an answer. He is already bending down, looping a long coded label through the handles of her suitcase. She hears herself speaking, as if down a long tunnel. She can’t even hear what she is saying, but he answers and then she marches away as if an invisible hand is pushing her.

Bodies surge around her, catching her up and depositing her in a front of a coffee counter. Someone in a stripy black apron, a wisp of blond hair straggling from underneath a black cap, takes the order that she gives automatically. The coffee machine stirs into a suppressed shriek.
“Would you like marshmallows in with that miss?”
“Yes, please.”

She takes the paper cup, hot and heavy with aroma, and takes a seat beside a window. The aluminium chair seems too fragile to hold her weight. Outside, the light claws its way along rusted benches, stalks parched gum trees, spearing them with long shadows. There’s a shipwreck in the courtyard. The things people will call Art. Sawtoothed prows erupt from a sea of pebbles. The wreckage claws impotently at the sky.

She finds her fingers at her throat again, fingering the smooth stone of the pendant. Its firm curves reassure her, tell her that she still exists. The stone gives off a faint heat, as if it’s stored her warmth.

She hadn’t wanted him to go to the airport with her. “I think we should say goodbye the night before,” she had said, firmly.
“Using your lawyer’s voice on me again, Tess?” he teased, touching her gently on the nose. She felt an answering tingle in her belly. Typical James. He had always been able to wriggle around the barriers she put up.
She tried to make her voice flat, emotionless. “I just think it’s better if we don’t have to say goodbye at the end,” she said. “You know why I need to go, if I don’t take this opportunity –“
He had touched her then on the lips, and laid his long body alongside hers on the mattress in his small cluttered room. The single bulb, painted last year during her glass painting phase, cast a fractured pink glow on the walls. She turned in his arms, ready to give in, but he hadn’t wanted to kiss her.
“I just want to hold you,” he said. He touched the greenstone pendant at her neck, the one he had given her on her birthday several years ago. His long fingers traced the curves delicately and then lingered on her skin. “I’m going to miss this,” he said.

Tessa sits and stares at the foam in her coffee cup. Rims of dried flotsam circle down inside the cup, towards the melted wreckage of the marshmallow. She raises the cup to her mouth and swallows, tasting the biting sweetness. Its sugar clings to the inside of her mouth.

She had seemed to settle in well. The partners at her firm had given her brief appraising nods when she had walked in that first morning, and she had taken that to mean they would give her a chance to prove herself. So she worked, often into the evening. She would emerge from the stairwell to find her car the last one left in the carpark, and drive along the lighted streets of her new city, watching the couples on the sidewalk who leaned against each other as they walked, their laughter audible even through the closed car windows.

The people seem to hurry upside-down around her, reflections on the polished floor of the food hall. Their coloured shadows billow and surge like shoals of multicoloured fish. At the next table an old man is hunched over a plate of crumbled slice with custard oozing from its pores. He has watery grey eyes like tepid pools. There’s a blanket draped around his thin shoulders, as if hiding a pair of wings. She picks up the empty cup, squeezes past his chair to get to the rubbish bin murmuring, “Excuse me”. He stares right through her, as if she is invisible. She shoulders her bag, and looks for the signs to the departure gates. There’s a silent flow of people ascending on the escalators ahead.

The phone call had come while she was asleep, rattling through the thin walls of the apartment she had now rented for six months. “Is this Tessa Wu?” an older woman’s voice asked, pulling her out of a dream in which she was lost in the middle of a grey city.
“Yes. Wha –“
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you. I’m Sarah, the supervisor of the Intensive Care Unit here at Auckland Hospital. Are you the girlfriend – I mean ex girlfriend – of James Green?”
The hazy reality of the dream jolted further away from her. “Yes, but –“
“I’m very sorry, this is going to come as a huge shock to you. James has been involved in a serious accident. He is…he is” – and here the voice faltered slightly. A pause. “He’s not expected to last the night, and his family asked that I call you.”
She could feel the breath squeezing out of her lungs, the world simultaneously expanding and contracting around her. She hoped she was still asleep. She wanted to be still asleep.
“Tessa?” The voice was gentle. “Tessa, I know this is very hard for you. Take your time.”

She’s a tiny speck floating in an enormous ocean, invisible to the people on the shore. As she tries to keep her head above the water she can see them walking around on the beach, looking into the rockpools, searching for treasures. She can’t feel her arms and legs, can’t raise them to ask for help. Somehow, with great effort, she drifts towards a rock which becomes a uniformed man. She hands her boarding pass and passport to him. “Good afternoon and how are you today?” he says without looking up. He has short close cropped hair. He looks exactly like the stern unsmiling photo on his identification badge. Stamp. Stamp. His eyes flicker summarily over her face.

She takes the passport from him, moves toward a bank of machines attended by more uniformed men. She lays her handbag on the conveyer belt and unslings her passport pouch. The red light on the XRay machine blinks on and off.

“How was he hurt?” Tessa felt her mouth moving, but the voice didn’t seem to be hers.
Sarah’s voice came emptily down the line. “Another car hit him. He was thrown from the vehicle. He has a badly fractured skull.”
“Is he – is he …..” Tessa struggled to pull a voice from out of her nightmare.
“He’s on life support, but we don’t know if he can hear anything.” A pause. “Is there anything we can do for you?”

Tessa fingers the pendant again as she sits. The greenstone spirals smoothly under her fingers, its shape that of an embryonic fern frond. The air hostess stops momentarily beside her seat. She has a tight smile, the edges of her face stretched like a balloon skin. She’s close enough for Tessa to see the mascara on her lashes, a spiked fence around drops of ice blue iris.

Her body seemed to want to turn itself inside out. Her mind was screaming at her, ordering to her to wake up from this impossible dream. A hundred questions fought to be heard, to be voiced, yet she stayed silent.
“Tessa?” Sarah said patiently.
“I’m getting on the first plane in the morning.”
“I know dear, but – he might not make it.”
The room seemed to constrict on her like a cage. A sigh came out of her, a sigh that gained voice until it became a cry. Her breath started coming in great sobs.
“Can you tell him something for me?” This, high pitched, so wavering she was not sure she could be understood.
“Of course.”
“Tell him –“ the image of a nurse bending over James’ sleeping body came to her. It seemed oddly incongruous, clichéd, just like what she was about to say. But now she meant every word. “Tell him that I love him.”

The engines whir into life, their energy seeming to surge through her as the plane gains speed, hurtling faster and faster across the tarmac. Tessa hunches into the seat, her shoulders clenched, eyes closed. As she feels the plane leave the ground she opens her eyes and the tears come. The world beneath her is tilting and shrinking, the buildings fading to tiny raised squares. The sea seems to spill over the rocks guarding the grey harbour. A wisp of cloud slides past the window, momentarily obscuring her vision, and when it clears Tessa sees the sun again, shining weakly over the sea.


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 10:27 PM

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The images from the Lousiana storm sometimes last longer than the flicker of a TV screen, the turn of a newspaper page. They resonate past the lives of those people, each one of them precious and real in themselves (despite what Barbara Bush might say). They reach out to me, and in moment of egocentricity I imagine myself in the middle of a flooded lounge room, staring at the wreckage of my life underwater, my hopes and dreams drowning or at least a bit flood damaged. I don't care in this moment, because I have found a new vessel to float in, one which is still just a few bits of wood cobbled together, and the only thing which will hold them together is my own determination.

sigh. I don't know why I am speaking in such riddles at the moment. Basically I have a great new plan for my life. I think I'll sideline medicine in 2007 and try to get into the writing course at Victoria University which is very prestigious - it won't be easy, but it'll be fun trying, and at the very least my writing should improve whicle I try. First - write more, and get critiqued. Second - try to get published more. This means regular and dilligent trawling of the competition and journal websites.

to start - my new short story. First for four years! (this will get updated as I revise drafts - this is draft nunber one.)

Voodoo

I had always been the teacher’s pet until I met Mrs Bier. I had just started at St Margaret’s, and I remember sliding down from the van and seeing the school gates on that first morning, their stones starkly white against the dark asphalt. My father pulsed the engine and said without looking at me, “Good luck.” Then he was gone.

It was1984. The cicadas pierced the summer sky with their song as I walked up the wide drive, the backs of my shoes stiff against my heels. The tartan fabric swung uneasily against my flat chest and the elastic of the fake tie seemed to want to choke me. A squad of thin girls stared as I tiptoed up the drive, their limbs shining palely against the dark tree trunks. I felt as if they were burning holes in my uniform with their eyes.

“You’re late,” said a woman with a thick twist of bleached hair when I finally found my classroom. Sets of faceless eyes swiveled silently. I breathed hard to keep up with the tympanic thudding of my heart and I became aware of a rim of fat creeping shamefully up my glasses. The woman smiled, her mouth a perfect stretched U. “Don’t you ever be late again,” she said, batting her thick black lashes at me and drawing a large X on the class roll.

The blond woman turned out to be Mrs Bier, my Form One class mistress. In the beginning I was thrilled to have such a gorgeous and young teacher. Mrs Bier would sit, queen like on her throne, with us fawning in little piles of tartan at her feet. We vied to please her because every Friday afternoon, she would give out little cardboard shields decorated with sparkly stickers to those who had pleased her the most. “Well done!” or “For the most improved student” was written in large careful printing on the shields. She quickly identified a court of talented students, and these she would exempt from normal classroom work and set to special tasks: working on a painted medal tally mural for the coming Olympics for example, or cutting out more cardboard shields. But although I tried hard to display my gifts she never picked me.

Instead, she seemed to ignore me most of the time. “Who is representing New Zealand in the swimming?”, she would ask, and my hand would shoot up, almost punching an additional hole in the plasterboard ceiling with its rows of little drill holes. The rest of the class gazed down, some secretly reading the anarchic wisdoms etched by our predecessors into the desks. “Well, class?”, Mrs Bier would ask, twirling a blond lock between her fingers, and sometimes she would flick a glance at me and snap, “Let others have a turn, Angela!”. On occasions when I was bent over my work I would glance up to see her staring at me, the mascara matted on her lashes, and suddenly it was as if someone had squeezed ice water down my back.

I took to spending my lunchtimes in the library. I would eat my food quickly and make my way into the dim polished corridors of the Old Building, the sound of my footsteps bouncing off the dark wood paneling. Once in the curtained warmth of the library with its smell of stale coffee, I would pick a random shelf and graze on words, plunging into other worlds until roused by the school bell. At that time I loved the science books best, with their print marching like black and white soldiers onwards towards the truth. I had decided I wanted to win a Nobel Prize one day, but thought I’d better start preparing early.

During classroom tests Mrs Bier prowled the space between our desks, pausing for a heavy moment just behind me. In those suspended moments I sometimes sneaked a glance sideways and down to where her slim ankles crouched in their sharp toed shoes, like a pair of impatient tigers. She never took off those high heels, nor her pearl necklace with matching earrings, not even when she was supervising us for PE. I said to my desk buddy Tash that the pearls must be fake, but Tash informed me that Mrs Bier’s father was chairman of the St Margaret’s board and that was why she had got the job teaching, and that the pearls were from Mrs Bier’s new husband, a playboy banker. Tash knew a lot more about real life than me. Her wide lips curled in amusement when I confided in her that I thought Mrs Bier hated me. “That’s because you’re smarter than her,” she said slyly.

Tash was having troubles of her own. A group of girls led by Sarah Murphy from our class seemed to enjoy baiting her. They were the ones who always wore their cardigans a certain way, slung low and loose off the shoulders to give an impression of perpetual slouch. By the way they constantly flicked their hair off their faces and called each other “Darling”, one would think they owned the school. When we changed classrooms for Maths they stood in front of the desk where Tash and I had just sat down. “You can’t sit there,” said Sarah, who liked to be called Murph. Tash stared steadily back. “Why can’t I?” she said. “It’s a free world.” Murph folded her arms and said, “It’s my desk, you brown turd” and before I had a chance to work out what a turd was Tash shot straight back, “I’m not moving!”. “Oh yeah?” snarled Murph, and reached down and grabbed Tash’s pencil case and threw it across the room. It hit the window with a loud tonk and pencils clattered to the floor. I had just opened my mouth to say, ”That’s not fair!” when my chair was suddenly pulled out from under me and I fell sprawling heavily against Tash, who had also been tipped from her chair. A pair of Murph’s groupies stood sneering down at us.

At this moment Mrs Bier slid into view. “Girls!” she said, in an outraged tone. “What is this? Just because Miss Jones is not here yet does not mean you can behave like this!” She gazed coolly at Tash and I tangled together on the floor. The burgundy line of her lips bent in a cruel arc. “Angela and Natasha, no wonder you never get picked for teams if you are so clumsy,” she said, and turned and left the room.


“I wish her entrails would fall out and she would die”, I muttered darkly, from the safety of the old tree stump at lunchtime. “She’s just an old faggot,” I added, vaguely using a word I had once heard my father use. Tash sat beside me moodily munching her sandwich and checking her black hair for split ends. “Stuff her, the old bag”, she said. “She’s just one of them.” I dropped down beside her and swung my legs over the side of the huge old stump. Several ghostly cicada shells clung to the wood, their crisp shells bent as if in prayer. I plucked one and hooked it thoughtfully on my blazer. “I wish we could get her back in some way.” I opened my lunchbox and groaned. My mother in her usual pesticide poisoning paranoia had peeled the grapes again. They stared back at me, like glistening pale green eyeballs plucked out in a rite of sacrifice. I had a sudden idea.

The book had a pinched yellow dust jacket, and I saw that the last person to take it out did so in 1979. As I signed my name and slid the faded pink card into the Borrowed slot I noticed the sweat beading my palms. Ancient rites and religions. I opened the book and a smell of something old and indescribably mysterious seemed to waft out of it. A tingling began at my fingers, ran slowly along the underside of my arms and started creeping up my neck. My glasses were getting dirty again but I didn’t want to stop to clean them. I found the section headed “Curses” and read through the fog:

Voodoo dolls were not as common as curse tablets, though they still were prevalent. They were commonly made of lead or bronze. Wax dolls were found in Egypt in late antiquity.
C.A. Faraone, in his survey of all known voodoo dolls, set specific criteria – the dolls must meet at least 2 of the following criteria to be included:
(1) the doll’s arms or legs are twisted behind its back as if bound (2) the doll is transfixed with nails (3) the head or feet or upper torso of the doll has been twisted back to front (4) the doll is tightly shut in a container (5) the doll has been inscribed with a victim’s name (6) the doll has been discovered in a grave, sanctuary or in (what was) water.

The book went on to describe other ancient curses, but by now the words were flowing faster and faster under my eyes, as if a river was sweeping them out of sight. The bell rang. I was glad to get through Music and Social Studies, both subjects I usually enjoyed because they weren’t taught by Mrs Bier, and get home so I could put my plan into practice.


I knew, from when we had to make lists of everything for a Civil Defence project, that my father kept some candles in his dusty toolbox. Since he was always complaining he didn’t have time to open the toolbox anymore I figured he wouldn’t miss one. As a bonus I also found some fuse wire which could have been made of lead. The task of making a straight candle look doll-like had me stumped for a while, but in the end I stole some of my sister’s Barbie stickers and beheaded one to stick on my doll, and tied her up with fuse wire. I was quite pleased at my work. I thought the blond hair and flawless makeup seemed somehow suitable for a doll that represented Mrs Bier.

I took some of my mother’s pearl headed pins and stuck them into the wax, trying to think of some dark incantations to go with my actions, but just ended up singing, “Doo-do Doo-do Doo-do Doo-do”, like Jaws, and feeling suddenly juvenile. The flush of the fantasy was wearing off. I found an old Griffin’s biscuit tin with a picture of an elegant lady enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit. I put the doll-wax-candle in and taped it up with sellotape. Then I remembered I hadn’t written the victim’s name on the candle, so I had to open up the box again and scratch “Bier”, in slashed writing with the tip of a kitchen knife before sealing it back in the tin.

Luckily my parents always thought I was up in my room doing homework, so I could sneak out the front door, across the road and into the reserve where a creek limped its increasingly choked way past the shedding tree ferns. I stood on the overbridge and leaned out into the dusk. Below me the creek gleamed faintly in the fading light, greeting the tin with a resigned splash. The edge of the tin bobbed up once, twice and then was carried off into the darkness.


I had forgotten all about the voodoo doll by the next morning. When I got to school I noticed that Mrs Bier looked different. I stared at her a while before I realized that her usually flawless makeup was slipping like a stage mask. Her mascara was smeared in grey shadows around her eyes, and her red lipstick had leaked so that it appeared the side of her mouth was cracking. She didn’t seem to be able to speak to us in her usual way and instead read out the roll in such a distant voice that I thought she looked like a ventriloquist’s dummy. The morning sun slanted in through the window and hit the pearls around her neck, making them glow so that they seemed to overpower the shadow of Mrs Bier. That was the last I ever saw of her. When we came back in after morning tea Mrs Ashley, the bland substitute teacher, was sitting at her desk.

Mrs Ashley acted like nothing was the matter but Tash had the answer to the question that began to circulate in frenzied notes around the classroom. At lunchtime people seemed to suddenly discover her desirability as a friend as she recounted what she had overheard some teachers say. “They said Mrs Bier’s husband died,” she confided to the large audience. She pressed her lips together and left them there for a while, to add to the suspense. Finally she unstuck them and went on. “He got run over by a car,” adding salaciously, “he got taken off the life-support machines this morning.”

A loud buzzing filled my head, rising in pitch until it felt as if hundreds of cicadas were squeezed into every conceivable niche in my skull. Voodoo! Voodoo! they sang as if in worship or horror. The light in the classroom seemed suddenly to fade, and even though one part of my brain – the part that was going to win a Nobel prize – knew that the sun had just gone behind a cloud, the other part of me was clenched in horror that all the light was draining from the world and I would see the world in perpetual shades of grey. The vision of my hand clenching the knife that carved the name of Bier – Mr Bier – into the wax – replayed itself over and over, over and over and over, until the lipstick-red blood dripped from the wax into the creek where I was frantically wading, stumbling against the dead fern fronds in my futile search for the tin.



Note: Acknowledgement is made of a resource on the internet entitled “Greco-Roman Curses: Voodoo Dolls” for the “textbook quote” in the body of the story. The words in Arial font (one paragraph) are copied or paraphrased from this resource and are not my own original work.

Revision 21/10/05: Spot the differences!

Voodoo

I had always been the teacher’s pet until I met Mrs Bier. I had just started at St Margaret’s, and I remember sliding down from the van and seeing the school gates on that first morning, their stones starkly white against the dark asphalt. My father pulsed the engine and said without looking at me, “Good luck.” Then he was gone.

The cicadas pierced the summer sky with their song as I walked up the wide drive, the backs of my shoes stiff against my heels. The tartan fabric shifted uneasily against my flat chest and the elastic of the fake tie seemed to want to choke me. A squad of thin girls stared as I tiptoed up the drive, their limbs shining pale against the dark tree trunks. I felt as if they were scorching holes in my uniform with their eyes.

“You’re late,” said a woman with a thick twist of bleached hair when I finally found my classroom. Sets of faceless eyes swiveled, silent. I breathed hard over the tympanic thudding of my heart. I became aware of a rim of grease creeping shamefully up my glasses. The woman smiled, her mouth a perfect stretched U. “Don’t you ever be late again,” she said, batting her thick black lashes at me and marking a large X on the class roll.

The blond woman turned out to be Mrs Bier, my Form One class mistress. In the beginning I was thrilled to have such a gorgeous young teacher. Mrs Bier would sit, a queen on her throne, with us fawning in little piles of tartan at her feet. We vied to please her because every Friday afternoon, she would give out cardboard shields decorated with sparkly stickers to those who had pleased her the most. “Well done!” or “For the most improved student” was written in large careful printing on the shields. She quickly identified a court of talented students, and these she would exempt from normal classroom work and set to special tasks: working on a painted medal tally mural for the coming Olympics for example, or cutting out more cardboard shields. But although I tried hard to display my gifts she never picked me.

Instead, she seemed to ignore me most of the time. “Who is representing New Zealand in the swimming?” she would ask, and my hand would shoot up, as if to punch through the plasterboard ceiling with its rows of little drill holes. The rest of the class gazed down, some secretly reading the anarchic wisdoms etched by our predecessors into the desks. “Well, class?” Mrs Bier would ask, twirling a blond lock between her fingers, and sometimes she would flick a glance at me and snap, “Let others have a turn, Angela!” On occasions when I was bent over my work I would glance up to see her staring at me, the mascara matted on her lashes, and suddenly it was as if someone had tightened a rope around my chest.

The library was my sanctuary. I would eat my lunch quickly and make my way into the dim polished corridors of the Old Building, the sound of my footsteps bouncing off the dark wood paneling. Once in the curtained warmth of the library with its smell of stale coffee, I would pick a random shelf and graze on words, plunging into other worlds until roused by the school bell. At that time I loved the science books best, with their print marching like black and white soldiers onwards towards the truth. I had decided I wanted to win a Nobel Prize one day, and thought I’d better start preparing early.

During classroom tests Mrs Bier prowled the space between our desks, pausing for a heavy second just behind me. In those suspended moments I sometimes sneaked a glance sideways and down to where her slim ankles crouched on their sharp toed shoes.. She never took off those high heels, nor her pearl necklace with matching earrings, not even when she was supervising us for PE. I overheard another girl saying that Mrs Bier’s father was chairman of the St Margaret’s board and that was why she had got the job teaching, and that the pearls were from Mrs Bier’s new husband, a playboy banker. I heard them giggling over the word “playboy”. They knew a lot more about real life than me.

I was learning some things fast though. A group of girls led by Sarah Murphy from our class decided to hate me. They were the ones who always wore their cardigans a certain way, slung low and loose off the shoulders to give an impression of perpetual slouch. By the way they constantly flicked their hair off their faces and called each other “Darling”, one would think they owned the school. When we changed classrooms for Maths they stood in front of the desk where I had just sat down. “You can’t sit there,” said Sarah, who liked to be called Murph, “it’s my desk.” I looked up at her, surprised. She always sat at the back of the classroom, whispering with her friends in a clutch of ponytails. “Why not?” I said.
Murph stared down at me, her wide lips curling. She said, “Because you’re a little yellow turd,” and before I had a chance to work out what a turd was Murph had snatched my pencil case and thrown it across the room. It hit the window with a loud tonk and pencils clattered to the floor.
I had just opened my mouth to say,”That’s not fair!” when my chair was suddenly pulled out from under me and I fell sprawling to the floor. A pair of Murph’s groupies stood sneering down at me.

At this moment Mrs Bier slid into view. “Girls!” she snapped,. “What is this? Just because Miss Jones is not here yet does not mean you can behave like this!” She gazed coolly at me lying on the floor. The burgundy line of her lips bent in a cruel arc. “Angela, no wonder you never get picked for teams if you are so clumsy,” she said, and turned and left the room.

“I wish her entrails would fall out and she would die”, I muttered darkly to no one in particular, from the safety of the old tree stump at lunchtime. “Stuff her, the old bag, she’s just one of them.” I swung my legs over the side of the huge old stump. Several ghostlike cicada shells clung to the wood, their crisp shells bent as if in prayer. I plucked one and hooked it thoughtfully on my blazer. “I wish I could get her back.” I opened my lunchbox and groaned. My mother in her usual pesticide poisoning paranoia had peeled the grapes again. They stared back at me, like glistening pale green eyeballs plucked out in a rite of sacrifice. I had a sudden idea.

The book had a pinched yellow dust jacket, and I saw that the last person to take it out had done so in 1979. As I signed my name and slid the faded pink card into the Borrowed slot I noticed the sweat beading my palms. Ancient rites and religions. I opened the book and a smell of something old and indescribably mysterious seemed to waft out of it. A tingling began at my fingers, slid along the underside of my arms and started creeping up my neck. My glasses were getting dirty again but I didn’t want to stop to clean them.

Voodoo dolls were not as common as curse tablets, though they still were prevalent. They were commonly made of lead or bronze. Wax dolls were found in Egypt in late antiquity.
C.A. Faraone, in his survey of all known voodoo dolls, set specific criteria – the dolls must meet at least 2 of the following criteria to be included: (1) the doll’s arms or legs are twisted behind its back as if bound (2) the doll is transfixed with nails (3) the head or feet or upper torso of the doll has been twisted back to front (4) the doll is tightly shut in a container (5) the doll has been inscribed with a victim’s name (6) the doll has been discovered in a grave, sanctuary or in (what was) water.

The book went on to describe other ancient curses, but by now the words were flowing faster and faster under my eyes, as if a river was sweeping them out of sight. The bell rang. I was glad to get through Music and Social Studies, both subjects I usually enjoyed because they weren’t taught by Mrs Bier, and get home for the weekend so I could put my plan into practice.

I knew, from when we had to make lists of everything for a Civil Defence project, that my father kept some candles in his dusty toolbox and I figured he wouldn’t miss one. As a bonus I also found some fuse wire which could have been made of lead. The task of making a straight candle look doll-like had me stumped for a while, but in the end I stole one of my sister’s Barbies and beheaded it to stick on my doll, and tied her up with fuse wire. I was quite pleased with my work.

I took some of my mother’s pearl headed pins and stuck them into the wax, trying to think of some dark incantations to go with my actions, but just ended up singing, “Doo-do Doo-do Doo-do Doo-do”, like Jaws, and feeling suddenly silly. The flush of the fantasy was wearing off but I told myself how evil Mrs Bier was and carried on. I found an old Griffin’s biscuit tin with a picture of an elegant lady enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit. I put the doll-wax-candle in and taped it up with sellotape. Then I remembered I hadn’t written the victim’s name on the candle, so I had to open up the box again and scratch “Bier”, in slashed writing with the tip of a kitchen knife before sealing it back in the tin.

I sneaked out the front door, across the road and into the reserve where a creek limped its increasingly choked way past the shedding tree ferns. I stood on the overbridge and leaned out into the dusk. Below me the creek gleamed faintly in the fading light, greeting the tin with a resigned splash. The edge of the tin bobbed up once, twice and then was carried off into the darkness.

By Monday the memory of voodoo doll had drifted from my mind. When I got to school I noticed that Mrs Bier looked different. I stared at her a while before I realized that her usually flawless makeup was slipping like a stage mask. Her mascara was smeared in grey shadows around her eyes, and her red lipstick had leaked so that it appeared the side of her mouth was cracking. She didn’t seem to be able to speak to us in her usual way and instead read out the roll in such a distant voice that she seemed like a ventriloquist’s dummy. I wondered why I had never noticed the dark roots at the parting of her hair. She was human after all. The morning sun slanted in through the window and hit the pearls around her neck, making them glow so that they seemed to overpower the shadow of Mrs Bier. That was the last I ever saw of her. When we came back in after morning tea Mrs Ashley, the bland relief teacher, was sitting at her desk.

Mrs Ashley acted like nothing was the matter but by lunchtime the information was being passed around in hastily written notes. At lunchtime Murph held court. “They said Mrs Bier’s husband died,” she confided to the large audience. She pressed her lips together and left them there for a while, to add to the suspense. Finally she unstuck them and went on. “He got run over by a car,” adding salaciously, “he got taken off the life-support machines this morning.”

A loud buzzing filled my head, rising in pitch until it felt as if hundreds of cicadas were squeezed into every conceivable niche in my skull. Voodoo! Voodoo! they sang as if in worship or horror. The light in the classroom seemed suddenly to fade, and even though one part of my brain knew that the sun had just gone behind a cloud, the rest of me was clenched in horror that all the light was draining from the world and I would see the world in perpetual shades of grey. The vision of my hand clenching the knife that carved the name of Bier – only Bier – into the wax – replayed itself over and over, over and over and over, until I thought I saw the lipstick-red blood dripping from the wax into the creek where I was frantically wading, stumbling against the dead fern fronds in my futile search for the tin.

Should I have taken out Tash? Votes please!
email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 11:54 PM

Friday, August 12, 2005

At the moment, my mind feels a little like the sand at the very edge of the beach, the grains constantly rearranged by the surf. It's been a rough week. I've burst into tears in three different offices in front of superiors. I've sat in education meetings with fat tears rolling down my cheeks for reasons entirely unrelated to the case studies being presented. I've gabbled on about meaningless topics at lunchtime in a effort to distract my companions, and myself, from the tears welling up in my eyes.

So why?

Well.... there are all the usual precipitating factors; the stress of the job; the increased workload in winter. I could even use the age-old female excuse and blame the excess hormones unleashed at "the time of the month". All these are mere precipitants. The fact is, I'm back at the crossroads.

For some years now, I've felt like a traveller at a crossroads wondering which path to take. Sometimes I stand experimentally on one or another path, sometimes I try to stand outside both to get a different view; sometimes I spot a smaller, fainter path snaking off through the grass and wonder whether I should try that instead. At times I've sprinted off up a road, only to slow to a walk, fearful of the new scenery. Several times I've rounded a corner only to find myself back at the old crossroads.

One road, the path of medicine, is familiar to me. I look behind me with pride at all the obstacles I've already negotiated, and then with trepidation at the challenges, the unseen rockfalls, to come. I remember the picture in the brochure which made me come all this way. It was a picture of a wise looking, serene woman, replete with the knowledge and grace she had gifted to the world. The other battered travellers I've met on the road so far do not fit this picture, although all of them have had their measure of wisdom and experience. Some of them talked to me for a while before plunging off down the other road.

The other road is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It meanders among the mountain pastures for a while, stopping to admire the alpine daisies, then suddenly curves around a large rock. I can't see where it goes from here, but I have a feeling the path gets steeper. I think there may be unexpected views along this path, maybe even a spectacular summit. But it's known as a hard path, this writer's path, and not all can make it to the end.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 11:02 PM

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Over a year since my last post. I've been busy in other forums; nibbling away at the cakecrumbs of experience in my travels; struggling to rediscover the meaning I once found in medicine. And yes, that old bugbear, romance. (What IS a bugbear exactly? must be a strange beast).

Ah yes, that "L" word. Love. How can that strange word, so lilting, so soft from the tongue, be wielded so often with the direct force of a sharp knife to the heart? Professional women lose their usual smooth assurance and gag before using it. Grown men run rather than hear it. It is bright and shiny as plastic, smooth and rich as chocolate, bitter as lemon rind and brain-dulling as absinthe.

Ah, love. I fear it and I want it.




email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 11:28 PM

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Page

the blank page stares accusingly
I stare back
neither of us blink.

you’ve neglected me
it seems to say
and you think six short measly lines
are enough?

really I think you should be writing much longer lines than this
selecting delicious emotive interpersonal language
there’s been a
paucity
of expression
so far.

I disagree
simplicity
is elegance

or possibly
I’m just lazy.
really, there is nothing so daunting
as sitting down in front of a blank page
but see
I’m already more than half way down
cunning eh?

I could try enlarging font next
or stretching margins
but basically
it all comes down to
saying what I need to say

pithy language
an arrow from the soul
aimed directly between the eyes

and thwack!
it hits its target
and I run off laughing
before you realize
I’ve reached the end of the poem

ha ha


Hometime, winter

car crawls
shoulders sagged
blowing haze into a day
suddenly bereft of sun

rivulet of red tail lights
bounce
through traffic light rapids
vying to be home first

the moon
a golden seashell
caught in the net of
a plane tree

street lights flicker on
turning streets into
neon conduits
of grief and love and talkback radio

and above
the dark hills brooding
their sheep like philosophers
masticating on the world’s problems

the moon
finally free
climbs to bang its big bronze gong

Auckland, 04/08/04

I've been getting easily emotional lately, a sure sign that I need to write things out (have been pretty slack on the writing front ever since I returned from my travels). So tonight I decided to sit down and not allow mysefl to go to bed until I'd written two poems.
email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au


Piokiwi 12:11 AM

Friday, March 12, 2004

snow
kissing all over
with cold lips
the wind touching me
with hands of ice
pulling at my scarf
homewards

I had thought to light a candle for you,
to shout your name
from a bridge or mountaintop
as the dark current flowed on beneath

but you sent snow
in March
instead.

I have seen your messages before.
It was you wasn't it
who sent the falling star,
who set the skies ablaze with sunset
who pulled me into your salty waves

and it is you
who tickles my mind still,
holding my gaze
with your brown eyes

but it is a little easier to breathe
one year on
and I find comfort
in the embrace of friends.

Piokiwi 3:40 AM

It's one year since the machine that was supporting Casey's breathing was turned off. He had gone some hours before, when his blood turned traitor and crushed the brain that gave reason to their function.

It's difficult to acknowledge that brutal truth in words, though those thoughts have been swirling in my mind. For ever it seems.

Today I am in London. The wind has been bitterly cold - cutting through the layers of my clothing, trying to tear my scarf away to get at my throat - but tonight the cold also brought snow, soft and light and magical, there for an instant then melting into tears.

It seems to be a metaphor for the way that Casey's death has affected me. It brought me the darkest days of my life, and will always be there, a grieving thorn niggling at the deepest part of me, screaming "what if?....".
It also reawakened the ephereal gift of writing and painting, which I'm not sure how I came to possess nor how long it will stay for.
A gift that tears at my insides before being born, ugly and beautiful and new.


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 1:49 AM

Monday, February 02, 2004

Hello, if you{re wondering why this blog hasn{t moved in a while it{s because I{m in Ecuador.
see my travel blog at
http://piokiwi.fotopages.com


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 4:43 PM

Friday, January 16, 2004

Quite a few poems were stimulated by the trip to Kenya and Tanzania.
Here are some of them:


Going Native

hands burnt brown by African sun
burnished with sunblock
beads clacking musically
about my braided head

any more time in this land
and my blood will run
thick and rich
as coffee
Nakuru, Kenya 8/12/03

It was great meeting the Maasai - tall, lithe and very good looking. We got to dance with the women (a characteristic jumping dance) while wearing their bead jewellery - a bit touristy, but lots of fun!

Maasai journey

trees cling to hillsides
defending succulence with spears
mud huts squat in the dirt
haircuts ragged straw

children chase
our grunting duststorm on wheels
waving excited limbs
their voices dancing on the wind

tall figures stride
beacons for their cattle
slender ebony frames
draped regally in red tartan

they are guardians of this proud land:
upright in tradition
honoured to wear the red dust
anointing the hills

their women crowned
with white beads
rainbow collars radiate
like the long hot sun

to dance with them
is to jump for joy.

15/12/03, 22/12/03 Engaruka, Tanzania


I seem to like writing Moon poems.
African Moon

It is night
and my old friend the moon
is cloaked in her plume of ostrich feathers
henna on her face
for in Africa
she knows many secrets.

From her perch
she sprinkles light on my path
winking as if to say
¡§ It is the same earth,
the same rain ¡¨

A few tears fall.
a hyena sings into dark
as my thoughts rise sad and sweet
the earth breathes in her sleep
beneath a blanket of wet leaves.

8/12/03 Masai Mara, Kenya

I spent a few days by myself in Monbasa, on the coast.
Mombasa

air hung heavy
flutters in sea breeze
edges stained with diesel

a fortress totters
among coral:
ancient Christian sentinel
in a forest of mosques

above the palms
turrets dream
voices sing to Allah
striking the hour

men run with hunger in their eyes.
hello! konichwa!
they bark from kerbs
milking tourist flocks
for dollars

even the taxis have teeth

a dhow offers escape
slaves to Arab mystique
we search
for a perfect coral reef

Mombasa, Kenya 4/12/03
and finally, a fun piece; my first "rap"!

Matatu song (to rap beat)
*Capitalled syllables are meant for emphasis
*an appropriate accent, and audience participation, is encouraged.

YO! I¡¦m your MAN, if you REally want to GO
Be it FAR, be it CLOSE, to the TOWN or to the COAST
I¡¦ll be THERE, with my WHEELS
I can DO you ANy DEal
Just NAME your DESTinAtion
And I¡¦ll GIVE you MY SPI-el

I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
GIMme your SHIllings and I¡¦ll TAKE YOU THERE
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
HOLD ON TIGHT for I HAVE NO FEAR.

YEAH! It¡¦s so COOL, the PAINT is barely DRY
The MIRrors really SPARkle and they SHINE SO BRIGHT
This GIRL is such a LEgend
And she¡¦ll DRIVE SO FAST
That you¡¦ll BArely smell the DIEsel as she ZOOMS RIGHT PAST

I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
GIMme your SHIllings and I¡¦ll TAKE YOU THERE
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
HOLD ON TIGHT for I HAVE NO FEAR.

SO! sign right UP, you can TAKE A SEAT
She can Always fit one MORE, it¡¦s REally not a FEAT
If your BUM HANGS OUT and your LEGS flap in the BREEZE
It¡¦s HaKUna MaTAta, I¡¦ve alREady got your FEE.

I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
GIMme your SHIllings and I¡¦ll TAKE YOU THERE
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
HOLD ON TIGHT for I HAVE NO FEAR.

YEAH! As we HOON with my ELbow up your NOSE
The DOOR is HANGing OPen so the COOL WIND BLOWS
WE won¡¦t STOP for MAN or BEAST, CROSSing THE ROAD
Our HORNS will SOUND the DEATH KNELL for those HAP-LESS SOULS.

I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
GIMme your SHIllings and I¡¦ll TAKE YOU THERE
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
HOLD ON TIGHT for I HAVE NO FEAR.

Don¡¦s WORry if you SENse that-
The TIRes are GONna BLOW
We¡¦re REally burning RUBber, it¡¦s the ONly way to GO
As you FINish the JOURney a QUIveRING MESS
Just THANK the Lord you¡¦re LIVing, you are TRU-LY BLESSED!

I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
GIMme your SHIllings and I¡¦ll TAKE YOU THERE
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
I¡¦m a MA TA TU
HOLD ON TIGHT for I HAVE NO FEAR.


„h Matatu: (Dalla-dalla in Tanzania) ¡V Kenyan minibus, usually crapped-out secondhand Jap import, driven by crazed boy racers around the city streets. Their aim is to fit as many people as possible into one vehicle and then get to the destination as fast as possible. To make it more exciting, the vehicles are painted with racing stripes, cool slogans and conspicuous lights/mirrors, may not have a functional door, and sometimes have rabidly loud sound systems, thus also functioning as lurching mobile discos. If it¡¦s got a seatbelt, it¡¦s definitely not a matatu. (it is also unlikely to be Africa).

„h Hakuna Matata ¡V ¡§no worries¡¨ in Swahili

„h Shillings: unit of currency in East Africa. A ride in a matatu within a city costs approx 15 shillings (30 cents), about 1/20th the price of a taxi.


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 7:49 AM

My third to last shift in Australia (yay!), and the last day I will be thirty (boo - another year older).
I've been reading through my last two entries, and they seem rather dark and self-pitying. Since I returned to Australia, I've been busy trying to tie up all the loose ends that need to be tied up on leaving a country and moving to another. I'm also rather gleefully, but busily, collecting information on my next travel destination - South America , leaving in 5 days!!

I have fog on the brain due to the fact it's 5 am and I've been up all night "saving lives" (reality is, it's rather formulaic in today's litiginous climate). I'm really looking forward to perking up and this depression lifting once I'm on the road again.

Over the last week, I've been busy writing and thinking about being a Chinese in a Western world. I'm excited that I've been accepted to present something on this topic at an autobiographical writing conference in Hong Kong in March ; I really have no idea what will really be the standard, but it's another step towards a career in writing.

Here's the abstract:(does it sound too posh?)

Masks and Mirrors: A collaborative reflection on intergenerational relationships
in the Chinese diaspora


I travel between worlds, my restless legs associated with the Hakka, the gypsy tribe of China. My ties travel through time and geography in China, Hong Kong, USA, and New Zealand, influenced by the unique complexities of Chinese culture.. Each generation inhabits an increasingly complex world, yet deals with it through the inherited human qualities of love, family loyalty, and friendship. We are veiled from the other by layers of truth, similar personalities of each generation (daughter-mother/daughter-father) clashing the most, yet ultimately sacrificing the most for one another. Those of us ‘in between’ are trying to understand, with no text book.

Hmm?
I've found there is a major problem with such personal writing - a sense of guilt that you may be inadvertently betraying your family. It seems to be easy to give people the impression that you are criticising your own parents (the worst sin in Chinese culture) , when in fact you are trying to understand your parents by looking at their actions and trying to work out their motivations.

I also can't be sure that my residual anger/frustration at recent events might be affecting my writing about my parents. Nevertheless, it seems important to explore these issues -and I'm also looking forward to hearing others' worldviews when I attend the conference.

To avoid the "family shame" as much as I can, I am using a nom de plume I decided on two years ago - "Christina Wei". Christina, my mother's first name, honours the fact that I think my writing genes come from her. "Wei" is part of my Chinese name, chosen by my grandfather. The character for "wei" means blossom, but my grandfather, deciding there were too many doctors in the family, decided to influence my destiny by adding an extra stroke, thus making it "literary blossom".(unfortunately, this was never explained to me until well after I'd entered med school!).


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 7:32 AM

Thursday, January 01, 2004

It's New Year's Day. NYE was spent here in Auckland among friends, though I am a little sad that no beaches, fireworks or mountaintops were involved. Never mind - I got to the beach the next day.

Despite the amount of time I spent chilling out (and not drinking) in a local pub, the passing of 2003 left me with few profound thoughts. (Maybe I'm just running low on profoundity).

At the moment I am angry. Angry because during a family dinner, my father made a very specific joke about dropping dead from a burst artery in the brain, poking me in the leg to make sure I got it. If it was merely accidental, it was grossly insensitive at the very least. If it was intentional, then it was even worse. I still can't believe the way that my parents are acting over this.

A few days ago I got a lecture from a close friend, one who knew me and Casey very well. He said (more or less) that I should start getting over it (being sad), and it's not as if Casey and I were going out at the time. It's true - we had broken up the July previously. But in the light of our 8 year history and the fact that (to our friends' confusion) we stayed living together, I admit I have tended to overlook this as a small technicality. In my mind (and certainly in the way I felt when he died) he WAS my partner. Is this so very wrong? And sure - as I have proven tonight, I do tend to go off the rails occasionally, and scream myself hoarse in private - it's a way of coping, and makes me no less functional the rest of the time. I think I prefer the emotional output way of coping to the rigid avoidance of pain.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 10:26 PM

It's strange: managed to get through Kenya and Tanzania, including 5 days solo in Nairobi and Mombasa, without getting mugged or robbed - and now I come home and I find one thing missing. My interest in my medical career. It's probably just a small downhill stretch on the road of life or a necessary reality check.
I'm afraid that for the last 9 shifts I have left to work in Australia, I will be reliable, but working without any heart or real interest. All of a sudden I just can't see myself satisfied with being a doctor for the rest of my life. This feeling seems to be happening to all my peers as well. We just can't shake the feeling that if we're unhappy, we should be considering doing something else.

Maybe it's just because I'm planning to travel again soon, or that I'm changing countries (or rather, coming home at last). Maybe all these positive comments about my writing and painting have gone too much to my head. But not for the first time, I'm thinking what if? - what if I just used medicine as a sideline reliable income and had a good go at something else for a while?


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 10:02 PM

Friday, December 05, 2003

Hello! to everyone who hasn't received my email, this blog will not be updated for the next three weeks. this is because I'm in Africa, travelling around Kenya and Tanzania, and I have a travel blog: http://piokiwi.fotopages.com - enjoy! email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 1:26 AM

Sunday, November 16, 2003

How depressing...this afternoon I went off to work in the Children's Emergency Dept smartly dressed in the All Black jersey, and ....we lost the World Cup semifinal against our archrivals Australia. I won't even mention the score, it was so depressing. And all this when NZ are supposed to be their strongest ever.

Of course what made it worse was, as I was proudly displaying my national allegiance in a foreign (enemy :)) country I kept being disturbed by nurses poking their head in to gloat over the latest score (someone had brought a video projector in, connected it to the TV and set it up on an iv trolley to beam onto the nearest X-ray screen. The parents didn't mind - they were watching it too.) In the end I had to resort to the good old "go away, I'm busy saving lives" strategem.

Arrgh. what went wrong??!!!



email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 2:56 AM

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

For some reason, for the last few nights I've been getting home, switching on the computer, and just going for it. Must have a lot of things on my mind.

Quirky

“you’re quirky” she said,
“I like that.” Quirky?
Quer-key?
Cuer-kwey?
does that mean I’m weird,
a oddball?
it is true
I tend to wormhole
my conversations,
burrow into the fertile soil
of my mind
to emerge somewhere
entirely different.
But wormholes can span galaxies
and so I combine
philosophy and science
(once the same thing)
in one sentence
conversants running to catch
the tail end of thoughts.

There are days
I sprint home
from responsible work
to indulge in an orgy of poetry
days when I wear red pigtails
(just for the hell of it)
spend long evenings
luxuriating in solitude
a symphony of thoughts
warbling my life’s song
and yes, I have a Kiwi
named Pio.

Do such things make me quirky?

For once
my mind is silent
on such matters
for what is ordinary to me
may be extraordinary in the minds of others

who is better to judge,
from within
or without?




email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 3:30 AM

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Fresh from another lonely musing drive home, I hit the computer and wrote another poem.


Passing


driving home tonight
the moon is hung like a big bronze gong
over the city of scurrying people
it beats away the golden hours
drawing slowly towards its zenith

and the moon sings

I stand edged on a precipice
searching again for your face
some glimpse you once existed
beyond footprints in a photo

a song arcing against sky

favourite blue bowls
squat unused in a cupboard
your hands wrapped them
in paper cocoons
I cannot undo

reaching all beyond to herself

my computer sighs incessantly
unyielding of files
you created,
images pulled
from a tangled Web

a shadow passes like a cloud

a green watch
honourably scarred in travel
lies broken on my dresser:
another gift
I can not bury in a wastebin

the moon howls outside my window

and I can not bury you

not yet.



and then I logged onto my email and found out that another very dear friend of mine had died this morning. How strange life is: how strange and yet so beautiful. It gives with both hands and then it takes away, leaving us staring and wondering "why?".

I have a feeling of us all standing on the edge of a cliff, our hands linked. One by one we fall backwards over the cliff, pulling the next person with us. But the air beneath us flows and pulsates in different patterns, and it seems gentler to be falling than perhaps it seems from the top of the cliff. But I can't see any more. I go to bed feeling very wistful and inevitable.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 1:48 AM

Sunday, November 09, 2003



Yesterday was spent constructing Xmas cards....I must be more organised than usual, to get it done this early! In keeping with the tradition of using a new art "form" to create the card (over the years I've used cartoons, embossing foil, wrapping foil, "stained glass", photoshopped images, poetry and computer blended cartoons and photos), this year, I have created a painting - with the above sketch from a "live" subject sitting as basis. As usual, I have flogged my printer and guillotine hard to complete the hand-production.

I think I've been sending out handmade Xmas cards for over ten years now. It's become a tradition with me - an annual "hello" by traditional post to friends around the world. Of course, with the volume - over a hundred people are now on my "definitely have to send a card" list! - I have to take the time to make each card into account!!

Piokiwi 2:08 AM


Piokiwi 1:57 AM

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Just had a week off (well, sort of off - ended up doing some extra shifts) and have been trying to force myself to do some research project work, but (displacement, displacement) seem to have veered over into more writing and painting instead. Tonight was rhyming night, and am quite pleased with the resullts:

Transient Girl

What was that? A streak of light,
A super human being takes flight!
Boys and girls, do not despair
For Transient Girl is finally here!

Commitmentphobe? There’s no-one who
Transient Girl cannot outdo.
At first a man might catch her eye,
She hopes, she thinks, “the perfect guy?”

She likes his hair, she likes the grin,
She notes the strongly angled chin.
She ponders how he’ll be to kiss….
She even thinks, “eternal bliss?”

She meets his gaze…new love is sealed,
Or so the lucky bloke might feel.
They catch a drink, move on to dine,
The man is smug: “I’m doing fine!”

They talk of food, discuss biology,
Move on to in-depth ideology.
He holds her close, he thinks of passion,
Lulled in by her long long lashes.

Meanwhile Transient Girl’s a-flutter.
She thinks, OH-My-God he’s a nutter!!
As Ideal Guy moves in for the kill,
She gasps, “Perhaps we’ll get the bill?”

She wonders how she failed to spot
This guy’s not really quite so hot.
Now she sees he’s slightly podgy,
And his dress sense rather dodgy.

Super heroes have no fear:
For Transient Girl the answer’s clear
Once again she’ll neatly dodge
All contact from the poor male sod.

Phone calls soon will go unanswered,
All attempts at email countered.
For every dinner, she’s got two
Or twenty “pressing things to do!”

So if you never find the scene
And lead a loveless life pristine
Do not despair, it’s oh so true –
Transient Girl can outdo you!

Annandale 21/8/03, 7/11/03


The Kingdom of Nights

The hour is nigh, oh don’t be late!
Across the threshold lies your fate
On the board in letters bold
The future of your night foretold.

Here’s a baby, ailing quick
There a boy who’s very sick
In the corner, a small child
Whose heart beats still against the tide.

So start to run: from bed to bed
We look to find what others dread
Numbers, lines wand’ring low and high
Will offer insights into life.

Hear! From whence is that bell tolling?
The nurses have the resus rolling,
Monitors alarm and shriek
So one more goes from bad to bleak.

It’s hard to feel a superhero
The manual followed, blow-by-blow.
When in dire need, who can sleep?
Wake up the boss, from slumbers deep.

So all night we walk tightropes
Balance numbers, dish out hope.
There’s many queries, often doubt
The nurses hold our hands throughout.

A break can never come too fast
We fall into a chair at last
The time is short, so fight to glean
A little rest through troubled dreams.

But look! Is that the morning light?
Perhaps salvation is in sight.
And look – appearing like a vision…
The morning staff, so fresh and willing!


CHW 24/9/03, 7/11/03

I think "Transient Girl" flows better and is funnier than "The Kingdom of Nights" which I started writing while on nights and was starting to look a bit contrived in places. However, in others it almost gets across what I want it to say...... only thing to do is to throw it to the lions at a poetry workshop (spent 4 hours in a workshop at the Writer's Centre last night!).
email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

watch for the sneak preview of this year's Xmas card (featuring Pio, of course) which I also designed this week!!

Piokiwi 1:34 AM

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

On to sweeter things. This afternoon driving into work a weird, almost hysterical feeling struck me. It went something like this: HEE HEE I WILL SOON BE IN AFRICA HEEHEE IN SOUTH AMERICA HEE HEE I WILL BE UNEMPLOYED AGAIN YEE HA WHO CARES!

Well I guess it is more of a calculated periodic unemployment, and far less daring than last time when I tripped off to Europe to spend all my money unsure of what job I would land in England afterwards....but anyway, it's immensely emancipating, and worth trying more than once for the feeling of gay abandonment and utter irresponsibility.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 5:10 AM

Driving home to bad pop music can do funny things to me. Amazing the number of times I’ve ended up blubbering on the way, and arriving home with half-connived song clichés in my head. Sometimes these are tossed aside in favour of much needed dreams (and rest), but occasionally they make it into my diary…..and even more occasionally, into my computer in the form of tuneless song lyrics. The opposite of a Song without Words….. Up to now, I’ve not been game to release these for public perusal, aiming to one day (whenever I magically become a genius guitar player I suppose) put in some attempt at a tune. However, seeing that’s not going to happen for some time, what the heck. Here are some of them.

The reason I’m a bit embarrassed is that (this is the theory anyway), being song lyrics/mass appeal etc, they are full of clichés, bad rhymes and words no self-respecting modern poet would put in a poem, such as “love”. Everyone will now jump on me and point out all the deep, meaningful and totally poetic song lyrics that have been written by U2, Sting and the like – I know, I know.

Strange
I’m walking the streets
my body torn in half
No one turns, no one screams
How strange

I look into the mirror
My eyes do not connect
They rove distant lands, seeking
How strange

My body is below
I drift above
Look down to see it weeping
How strange

You’re talking to me
You see that I laugh
But you’re talking to a fake
How strange

Strange I lost the one I loved
I never told
Stranger come and rescue me
From this despair

I”ll walk the streets
Tonight, in halves
No one will turn, no one will scream
How strange


Forgive me


I know you didn’t
Believe in life beyond
What’s done is done
One life we own

But if sometimes I call you down from the sky
sometimes I see your eyes in the stars
sometimes I catch your voice on the wind
forgive me

Your hand was warm
Your pulse still so strong
But blood betrayed
Your mind had drowned

But if sometimes I dance with my hands wrapped around
sometimes I sing in a solo duet
sometimes I talk to your smile on the wall
forgive me

So now you rest
Dust in a green box
Soon to be free
At one with tide and sea

But if sometimes I sigh at lingering sunset
sometimes let the sand wash from between my toes
sometimes dream of your warm hand in mine

forgive me



Annandale 4/11/03


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 5:03 AM

Sunday, November 02, 2003

A little boy was brought into the Intensive care today. He had been found floating limp in a pool, 8 minutes after last being seen busily helping out in the yard. His heart had stopped for at least 20 minutes before an ambulance crew got it beating again, by sheer brute force of drugs. Young hearts are strong but brains are still fragile. Now he lies on ventilator support, his muscles paralysed to stop the seizures and aid in cooling him. His brain is swelling, pushing itself against the confines of the skull, and all we can do is watch helplessly from outside. At worst he will die. Or is it at worst? I remember the first near- drowning I looked after, 4 years ago. She was a beautiful 2 year old, and I remember the long weeks of seeing her lie like a vacant, perfect doll, blond hair tied back with a ribbon, her hands and feet fisting uncontrollably as her parents tried to believe she was communicating with them.

Over the three months I’ve now worked in Intensive Care, I have seen many patients whose situations remind me of Casey’s. I have even, now, sat on one side of the table in the Interview room and watched the faces of parents as all little remaining hope was taken away from them and they had to face the ultimate truth. Their faces must have mirrored mine 7 months ago. I do not watch bravely. Twice, I have begged colleagues to take patients that I feel I cannot look after without becoming too swayed by my emotions. There have been many children with the same condition as Casey’s: 2, 8, 13 years old. Some have died, others have survived. It is hard to watch their parents pacing, disempowered and for once unable to protect their children. I feel I have to remain on my side of the clinician-parent barrier. And so we each pace, one side in acute fear and abandonment, the other in memory and longing.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 4:58 AM

Monday, October 27, 2003

A crazy but somehow satisfying weekend, doing extra shifts in my old stomping ground, the Children’s Emergency dept. I went from managing intubated, unconscious patients to deciding what was wrong with a succession of unhappy, snot nosed babies and toddlers. It’s a harder job than it seems (though very familiar to me by now), and carries a weighty responsibility. However, now that I’m safely home (after midnight) I can recall with some amusement that I spent a largish proportion of my time today trying to coax a recalcitrant 2 year old that he needed to take his medication. Coaxing, bribes, threats, reasoning and sheer force all met with little success, and several hours later the score was still :
2 year old - one
4 adults – nil.

Hmm. In the end I shook hands with the two year old after a spirited contest of wills, and decided to let him go home anyway. Good luck to the parents who now have the task of giving him more medication.....


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 3:37 AM

Monday, October 20, 2003

There are times when I feel like Sydney is out to get me. For instance when someone zooms up my behind, beeping like crazy, suddenly sideswipes to overtake then pulls in front with a triumphant two-fingered salute. A violation of road space. Or when taxis and trucks beep noisily outside my bedroom window. A violation of my street space. But when it's jimmying my passenger side lock so now I can't open it, it becomes a personal violation.

It's times like these that all my bad feelings about Australia, and Australians, come to the fore. Sydneysiders are known as the most "American" of Ockers: shallow, materialistic, out to grab their slice of pie and to hell with everyone else. (there, now I've offended lots of people). Outsiders, even those in love with Sydney's undeniably sunny weather and gorgeous beaches, are surprisingly unanimous in this evaluation.

It is probably just because I'm feeling incredibly small and alone right now. Though I should be used to it, because I feel like this for at least a few moments every day. Let's not pretend all that stuff I mentioned doesn't happen in the Godzone of New Zealand: it does, all the time. But I'm in a foreign country with a foreign values system, road code and laws: at least if I were home I would know a little better how to deal with it. And more importantly have more than one shoulder to cry on.

I believe that New Zealanders are the kindest, fairest, most balanced people in the world. I admit that I am biased in this. Probably I am the victim of patriotic indoctrination. but that doesn't matter: I believe it, my best friends are Kiwis, and I wanna go home.




email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

It's not all Bad: the view from my house in Annandale on a nice day.

Piokiwi 1:51 AM

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I'm home in Auckland for one all too short weekend - a conference this time, as all of us need to catch up on the latest knowledge, meet fellow trainees, and schmooze up to bosses. As could be reliably predicted Auckland has turned on a display of its finest weather ie. wet, cloudy and cold, to welcome the visitors from Oz I had hopes of showing off my home to. Oh well. It's still beautiful. The Sky Tower (which I have gradually warmed to) is all lit up in pink, and this evening the top of it disappeared into a pink-tinged cloud just as the dusk was making the sky dark baby-blue. It looked like something out of Lord of the Rings.

The conference is on sleep medicine, and given many delegates arrived the night before at 2 am it seemed topical that one of the first sessions was on how chronic sleep deficit affected people doing important tasks. I mused that paediatric registrars are a group well worth studying for this topic, though you wouldn't be able to recruit any subjects because none of us are going to agree to missing out on any more sleep than we are already doing. True to the spirit of this research, I am returning to Oz on Monday afternoon, just in time to do some housework then head off to night shift. Ah, the glamour and the joy.

email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 12:14 AM

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

By the end of a set of Intensive Care shifts (13 hours, 8-9 am/pm day or night), I feel slightly deflated, usually smarting from the memory of several faux pas that I have made – like asking a dumb question of the consultant/boss, caught just-in-time errors or a foolish comment to a nurse. It is then that the beauty of “saving lives” (if following a set of rules could be called this) tends to be eclipsed by other emotions.

The papers here in Oz are full of articles about "greedy doctors" who are resigning in protest rather than pay an extra medical indemnity levy. (the background : early last year the biggest medical indemnity insurer, UMP, collapsed due to its inability to demonstrate to the government it could pay for all of the huge claims now being passed through the courts due to the litiginous Aussie culture - second only to California for the number and amount of claims. The government, which insists that all doctors are covered by medical insurance, - and faced by the spectre of thousands of doctors suddenly being unable to practise - gave a guarantee for the continued survival of UMP and then proceeded to bill all its members for money to cover this). People, including me, who paid a voluntary membership fee to UMP for years (we are covered by our hospitals anyway, but are advised that extra cover is good) were suddenly hit by a bill for thousands of dollars - and are still not covered by UMP for medical indemnity. Senior doctors are walking out or taking early retirement in protest.

The real problem, as I see it, is with the Aussie "it's not my fault - it must be someone else's" culture. An attitude supported by stupid laws and poor interpretation by judges. How else do you explain a court that awarded a man millions of dollars in damages against a city council after he dived into a shallow bay after getting pissed, not surprisingly hit his head and became a quadriplegic, then proceeded to sue the council for not putting a sign up saying "please do not dive into the shallow water when drunk"?. These are of course, the same idiots who claim the dole (part of which is the 45 % of my income taken by the Howard government), then wander into the emergency department having got into some knife fight or other. A bit hard to feel sympathy sometimes, despite my Oath.... And I suffer again when local clubs and societies can't afford the suddenly rocketing cost of public liabilities insurance and I miss out on a good bushwalking trip or something.

Ah, Australians..... sometimes I'm glad I'm getting outta here!!
email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

If you got through all that, you deserve a laugh - therefore a completely unrelated picture of me after a bushwalk last year, during which I spent a substantial amount of time on my bum (thus inspiring the anthem: "Ode to the Humble Butt" - see archives). As you can see, I got a lot of sympathy from my fellow walkers.

Piokiwi 2:16 AM

Sunday, October 05, 2003

It's a "long weekend" here in Seedny.ie Mon is a public holiday, which I am rostered on to work. However I am off today, which meant I was out making the most of the great festivals which are on at the moment - the Manly jazz festival (free jazz, nice food, lots of happy dogs, grannies and kids out strolling among the pine trees) and the Darling Harbour Fiesta (free Latin bands, although it is still too cold to wear any of the skimpy garments required to look good in doing salsa, and I see I will have to cultivate more friends who like to dance).

My flatmate Rebecca has her 76 year old gran visiting, which means she is required to call home if she is out late to reassure gran that she is safe. (One forgets the luxury of not being accountable to one's parents when one is living away from home - see, it's not just Chinese parents). When I got home tonight, Bec's gran commented that I looked no older than 16 going on 17. I could have hugged her - after feeling rather dowdy among the svelte young things raging in Darling Harbour tonight, it's nice to know that one appears young at least from the perspective of some people......



email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 12:41 AM

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

My cousin Ferdi aged 5 1/2 has been visiiting from Beijing, and yesterday on my day off I bravely accompanied him and my Aunty to the Zoo, at the peak of the school holiday season. Taronga Park Zoo is enchantingly situated across the harbour, a ferry ride away from the bustle of the city. From this peninsula, one can see unlikely vistas of exotic animals grazing within sight of the Opera House.

I haven't seen Ferdi since my visit to Beijing in 1998 when he was one. On this occasion, he chattered away to me in Cantonese with the assurance of one who already knows that they are in full control of the world. I found myself fielding enquiries about why my Chinese was so bad (there is nothing so deflating as a young relative correcting your grammar). I also had a hard time convincing him that I was any older than 9 years old (perhaps he had a point, as I had been busy impersonating rabbits and frogs jumping along the pavement at the time). Eventually he conceded that I might be as old as ten.

Strangely, whenever I have relatives to try to impress like my aunties, I immediately feel very small and young again, and no matter how hard I try I always end up feeling incapable and about ten years old instead of 30. Usually something embarrassing happens - once when I was trying to impress my uncle by taking him to a popular cafe my car got towed away while we were having coffee. Is this a common experience or is this just a function of my Chinese family?


email me: piokiwi@yahoo.com.au

Piokiwi 9:21 PM

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

On a nicer note, I have been scribbling still. And performing - my prize tally for the Tues poetry nites at a nearby pub standing so far at $10 and a bottle of red (which will go nicely in my cooking). This one is a draft still, a patchwork of thoughts about going home:


Homecoming (notes)

Aotearoa
land of clouds and shadows
sun burst and sea stars
the pull of earth
its air freedom

Weekend smell
sliding clotheslines
roar of distant lawnmowers
sand wedging in toe cracks
introspection on the verge of rockpools
feet on sharp oysters

rain on asphalt
corrugated iron
glossy leaves stroking wet glass
friendship ringed round board games
pizza and fizz in glasses

long drives through night
to beaches made secret by moonlight
sinking onto black sand
lost by choice
scratching our names in the sand
swings dancing in darkness


city lights reflected
dark road like polished greenstone
cheerful clink of cups
playing student in a fleece
in the warm groan
of my old Toyota

and now I can come home



21.8.03, 4.11.03 Annandale



Piokiwi 1:40 AM

Whew, it's been over a month since I last posted!! Not that there's been many a night shift where I've though about opening up the blogger page.... but then a new patient has arrived, or a nurse has barged in and demanded immediate attention, or somesuch. Such is the ICU.

The PICU tonight was a sad place when I left. Another two year old (they are always 2 or 3) had been found face down in a pool, and resuscitated so there was a heartbeat, but no evidence of brain function. The family realised quickly what that meant. They were sobbing away their hope beside the bed as his little life ebbed away. One of the grandparents asked my boss how he could bear to do his job and see such things, day after day.

It's a common enough conversation in the ICU. Strangely enough, though I have indeed lost my nerve a few times - usually when withdrawal of care or organ donation needs to be mentioned - I do enjoy my time in the ICU. Apart from the academic challenge - working out what is going on and what the best course of action is - it is a rare opportunity to form a direct bond with the family - often the relatives are who you can help the most. I also marvel at the ICU consultants' ability to keep fighting for patient's lives, long after the rest of us have lost reasonable hope. When the odds are stacked thousands to one against, when all medical reasoning says you should stop, the ICU consultant is still trying to see that one last chance. And it seems to me that that is what every patient- and their family - needs - someone who will fight to the last.

Ben

Tiny yellow body
all belly
garlanded by rattle-horses
still at last.

A lock of fair hair
in a book,
a blue box of sparkles
smudged with tears.

Machines grouped silently
behemoths now still
waiting for a new call
to arms.





Piokiwi 1:36 AM

Thursday, August 28, 2003

A new poem.

Intensive Care

I walk among you,
the live in dread:
your lives ebbing and flowing
with each breath of those you love.

Unrecognised
behind my smiling clinician’s mask
I am one of you,
turning in sudden freefall
in an alien galaxy
the surety of your lives vanished
in a fatal moment,
a chain of flaws.

Isolated but bound by grief
ghostlike we wander
among monitors tracing our fates
in neat coloured lines,
the soft puff and gurgle
of blinking machines.

There are those who charge
Hope their lance against the odds
those who clothe their fear in smiles
those who endure the long days
their light still distant
those who come to grieve

I swim upward
in slowly widening circles
and below I see you,
the beginners,
start to swim.

Piokiwi 1:41 AM

Friday, August 22, 2003

An introspective night last night, one of those bouts of personal pain that still sneaks up on me by stealth, and too late to call anyone about it. Or maybe it's better to deal with it myself. And so I sit down, and write: time to polish at first, then later more raw, don't care, just the truth stuff. Don't worry. I'm not like this all the time.

Western haunt

A wisp of cloud
hostage to an endless sky
red earth prostrate
in supplication for rain
distant human dust trails
while watchers hide in the landscape

bitter earth indeed
but like desert weeds
it grows fast
its sands ubiquitous
the dream of open spaces
will haunt me now



Mission Bay, summer

salt sea sand
dry lips now moist
fumble
myself lumped under your jersey
anonymous to the crowd
cackling along the seawall
rocks igneous now prey
to the slow suck of the sea

later jive to the neon pull
of chips blatantly salty
can’t remember if there was a guitar
but it would have fitted
there’s always the fountain
spurting lights so magic
kids magnetised to the pool

but now a desperation
the tide relentless
your hand losing its grip on my breast
and I fall again
the lights go out
it is so

empty



Cryptic

Hollow puppet me
bobbing and grinning
“I’m OK...”
God, you almost had me convinced.

But look: there can be two (or more) versions of the truth.
You miss him.
Your soul screeches daily in pain.
You’re not even sure how you survive, day after day.

And then there’s Happy You:
no less truthful, just a little more numb.
And dumb. Perhaps.
People like happy people.

It would be OK, I guess,
if there was an alternative huggy universe:
a Mr Replacement, ready to supply all required stimulations,
even if he wasn’t the same,
at least it would be a comfort.

But even that is missing,
and friends’ ears at 2 am
do not respond fondly to phoning
now that you’re 4 months out.

Guess there’s always the desert for screaming.



Cryptic no.2

“In the desert, no one can hear you scream”
but I paraphrase the movies, or somesuch.
Kind of handy if it were true, really.
But I’m not near the desert anymore.
The sea could do as well really
gurgle gurgle gurgle
just have to be careful not to breathe in too deeply.

Calm down, I’m not suicidal
No jumping out of buildings
to end the flames of burning pain
no pyre for me yet
though sometimes I feel that little vessel
at the back of my brain
swelling, poised to pop.

I do admit though
to a certain….carelessness at times
A minor disregard for personal safety
not checking my car before I get in
forgetting the door lock
a walk in the dark
After all, I’ve seen the worst
but I guess it could still be sore.

After all, what kind of thinking is that?
Do you think it would help,
plunging yourself into darkness as well?
Let’s see… deep down you still think
you might be wrong about the afterlife,
that you still might see Him
afterwards.

Not a chance, sister.

You’re probably best sticking to the idea
that He is Within,
and getting on with it.


Piokiwi 1:45 AM

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Tonight, missing my old friends in Broken Hill, I went to the Friend in Hand at Glebe to find out what their poetry night was all about. I returned with a poem:

Barflies in Glebe

red velvet woman
with red velvet voice
strums the soul
to the chuckle of double bass

a girl tosses smoke puffs
back with a flick of brown ringlets
a statement of bohemian cool

from the corner
full speed
schizo-stream-of-consciousness
performs to an unseen audience
three minutes
stretched to the limit

stories of unrequited lust
or writer’s block
eyebrow-raised humour
sex as a condiment
youth their wine

and I, from the worker’s world
they spurn and yet aim to join
sit in the dark
stale smoke my memory
this poem my souvenir

19/8/03

Piokiwi 3:53 AM

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Poems composed on the way back from Uluru (scribbled onto the bus window in whiteboard marker - very public poetry writing - therefore forgive the mass appeal element!)

Ballad of the Red Centre

To their land we came as guests
Though each of us had different quests
Clouds swept with us along the plain
To our surprise we brought the rain

With sun's respite we climbed the earth
O'er which the name of Kings was writ
Creation scenes to us were told
As through the chasm our eyes strolled

On to the land where songlines meet
But rain and thunder still did greet
And though our campfire tried to die
Deep in our swags we snuggled dry

With sacrifice, and early start
At last we reached the hallowed heart
Uluru - glistening like a jewel
Its many secrets left to tell

And so we found the last of three
Its mango clusters rising free
Kata Tjuta , most mysterious
Sandstone towers wreathed in silence

So now we start the long road home
For some the path will lead them on
As many nations share a beer
For Matt and Lena, give a cheer!


And for the subsequent international poetry competition my effort inspired.... (the prize being beer, of course)

Outback Caution

The land of Oz is red and wide
Within it, many hazards hide
From sunrise morn till end of day
Tourists should be much afraid

Hoop snakes stalk their human prey
With fangs as sharp as spoons (some say)
As quarry fill their pants in fear
They'll roll into a hoop, and sneer

Those with tjukurpa don't fear
But worst by far are fat Drop Bears
As unsuspecting tourists walk
Under branches, down they drop!

In breeding season, do take fright
At bulls that dance to Barry White
When lovelorn bovines threaten you
Just play a tune on your didgeridoo.

I'll mention here the kangaroos
That work as outback postal crews
When you want to post a letter
Slip one in their pouch, it'll get there!

So heed my cautionary stories
Or you won't last your Aussie journeys
And if you thought one word I spoke
Was true, l'll confess, 'twas a joke!

(for the record.... the challenge here was to write, in about 15 mins in a darkened bouncing minibus with loud music going, a poem containing the words Didgeridoo, sunrise and Tjukurpa(Aboriginal word meaning connection to the land). For a bus filled with Italians, Germans, and Spaniards, the yield of literary efforts in English was impressive. Though the prize was won by an English lad who rhymed "Tjukurpa" with "cuppa".)

My own effort, in case you're wondering, exposes the many Aussie "legends" told to gullible tourists. I fondly remember the one about postal kangaroos had some fellow travellers from the States and UK enthralled for days while I was travelling on the TransMongolian several years ago.

Piokiwi 1:24 AM

Monday, August 11, 2003

Hello from the Red Centre - apparently I can't keep away from the desert, nor am I capable of spotting a 1 week gap in the roster without taking advantage if it. So here I am in Alice Springs. Spent the weekend whizzing around Kings Canyon, Uluru and the Olgas - amazing red rocks although it being peak season it's easy to lose the atmosphere of the places. Also far too speedy a trip, but Uluru will always be there, and no doubt I'll find a reason to return. Today I embark on a 2 1/2 day train journey back to Sydney - not sure if it will be comfortable, but we'll see.

In any case one of the enduring memories of the trip is the situation I got myself into last night - despite not having a drop of alcohol to drink. I was at a post-tour party at a popular pub called Melanka's where all the backpackers in Alice hang out, and got talked into playing some pub games. Unbenownst to me until it was too late to back out, this involved swapping clothes inside a swag (a canvas sleeping bag) with a guy - the unfortunate thing being that my partner for this game was a 6 foot 4 medical student called Ian that I'd known for all of two days! I had no problem getting into his clothes, but the fact that he could get into mine and that I could still wear them afterwards is testament to the stretching power of lycra....

Anyway. On to more sedate pursuits (I think.) Back in Sydney Wednesday.

Piokiwi 12:38 PM

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A night in the life of a medical mole.....
Here I am on nights in intensive care.... it's a strange existence, this, waking in the dark, wolfing down breakfast/dinner and sliding into the carpark just as everyone else is leaving, then driving home in the morning in that special post-nights zombie state. My nights vary from gentle parambulations around the unit and occasional pokes at patients, to all-out, frenzied, omigod admissions. The unit owns a vital piece of equipment - a cappuccino maker which I have discovered delivers a potent brew capable of zinging me up for four hours. An extra challenge to the night is therefore the careful titration of caffeine to deliver maximum zing at the all-important morning ward round, during which (after being up all night) we are expected to deliver lucid and pithy patient summaries.

Anyway. Here are some poems I wrote last year, though only recently revised:

Huangshan
This morning
I floated like a fairy
over rocks rising immortal
from a green sea.

Omnipotent I gazed
at yellow ants toiling uphill:
burdened with baskets
of human flotsam.

This afternoon
I am an ant:
climbing stone pathways
badged with tourist privilege
and two shining cameras.

How can my lens grasp
the majesty of peaks breeching
like graceful whales from autumn foam
Does it see
the golden sheen of rocks
enticing yellow butterflies

Above the clamorous surge of people
a pine sashays silently
towards a blue sky


- Huangshan is a set of peaks in China, revered for generations for their beauty, particularly for the way the clouds cling to the elegant rock peaks. A traditional haunt of poets and painters, which judging by the names of some of the "scenes", consumed a considerable amount of mind altering substances in the rarefied air. Today however Huangshan is the haunt of tourists who can cheat by taking the cable car to the top and staying in one of the hotels. Porters - too poor to own decent shoes - still use the breath-bursting stone steps uphill, carrrying loads of up to 50 kg, at US $0.50 per kg.

Wushan

The Goddess Peak looks skyward
sleek goats slide on her skirts
nonchalant to cities below
collapsing to the drum of sledgehammers
and red tape.

Bricks shower
from city gates
imploring heaven
but no answer.

Families squat
in concrete shells
screens flicker blue to claim
their lives have improved.

Sunshades sprout
On fresh ruins
With goods for sale:
See, life goes on.


Wushan is a major city near the Three Gorges, the stretch of the Yangtse renowned for its beauty and history, which is currently being engulfed as a result of rising water levels from the Yangtse Dam project. When my mother, my sister and I visited last year (just before the final closing of the dam), we found people still living in their houses by the river, even though the houses had been deroofed to encourage them to move to their new concrete-block apartments above the projected water line. Tens of millions of people have been dispossessed of their ancestral land as a result of the dam project.

New for Old

“New for old!” the vendors cry
Though poets wail and peasants sigh
A river of gold will rise to claim
These wild green gorges still untamed.

Gone the trees where monkeys play;
Defeated are the ancient gates
In tall pagodas fish will dance
While common man will have to chance
The gleaming modern concrete shells
Above the land their fathers tilled.

Who knows what the dam will bring?
Perhaps the Yangtze cannot win.
But when mankind a god will fake
It is a dangerous chance to take.

Piokiwi 4:58 AM


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