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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Broken Pots and Fantails

I guess in one way or another, we are all a bit like broken pots.

This poem is about someone who was broken in a way that no-one would choose. I wrote it today after having seen last night's '60 Minutes' about a New Zealand woman who spent eleven years in the infamous womens prison in Bankok.


back home

She said what she did was silly, reckless,
unwise. She was bored. Needed excitement.
Bankok, mid-nineties, too tantalising
to turn down just before she turned forty.
All she had to do to pay for her trip
was to carry a small package back home.
She didn’t know what was strapped to her leg
but thought she was safe. Who would suspect her,
a grandmother? When caught she remembers

saying, “Oh, is that heroin?” And then,
“So that’s what it looks like.” From there it was
a short, sharp trip to the ‘Bankok Hilton’
with its filth, mud, rats and lack of shelter
from the rain. Where you had to fight and scrap
for some space and a place to keep your shoes
from floating away. Where she watched her friend
die of Aids. Each year her father travelled
over to visit until she said, don’t

anymore Dad. After eleven years,
the king granted her a pardon. Back home
and on ‘60 Minutes’ it is the shame
she says that is the hardest thing to bear.
But thankful now for things like clean showers
and for glass and how it keeps out the rain.
The rain. As water runs down glass, she’s filmed
standing behind it, her face dissolving
as the rain pours down in absolution.

(In this poem I have used the Poetry Thursday prompt of 'absolve'.)


Originally uploaded by mcdinzie.

All day today I have been trying to catch a fantail - or piwakawaka. On camera that is.

This is my sister's photo of one. (Go here to see more of her beautiful photos.)

Our cat Grommet has also been trying to catch a fantail - but NOT on camera. This is him looking down at me as he pleads - no, demands might be more to the point, just look at that expression! - to be rescued from the roof.

I left him there for an hour, figuring if he got up, he should be able to get down again. He's not a light cat and we could hear him thundering around going from side to side, mewing piteously. Silly feline. So of course, in the end, I had to haul him down. I'm sure he was up there because he could hear the fantails squeaking. In the end, I had to be content with a poem and no photo. (Unlike my sister and her partner, I can't seem to photograph birds.)


You flit,
there is no other word for it,
you dancer, you yo-yo,
as if on the end
of elastic.

I look to see what you want
and yes, there
are insects,
dark specks in lit air
like floaters in a bad eye.

All day your squeaks a wet finger
on glass,
your beige undercarriage
ballast for your black-and-white
tail feathers’ aerial feats.

Yours is an ancient spiral,
a dance that reminds what
has not changed
between the first waka*
and the last.

Between when all was empty
green and now, here,
where you float over
ground ashen with cities
the colour of death.

* waka - a Maori canoe. The maori arrived in New Zealand (Aotearoa) by waka. It is said the bird piwakawaka - fantail - was so-named because it was the first bird to welcome the first waka. And these little, dancing birds do appear to welcome us, but in actual fact when they flit about very close to our heads, they are really chasing the tiny flying insects that have been disturbed by our movements.

(The word 'spiral' comes from PT's prompt for the second day of the Poem-a-day challenge for April.)


And here is another autumn reminder. Perennial berries of the cotoneaster plant. Pronounced coton-e-aster - instead, I always like to pronounce it 'cotton-easter' seeing as the berries always appear around Easter.
Maybe it can also be a prompt for the next poem - using PT's prompt of 'perennial'. But that will have to keep for tomorrow.


Catherine said...

Isn't there some Maori mythology that associates fantails with death? Somehow I can't think of them that way. Both poems are great - I've decided to try and join the fun too, but I have very little time, so I think the habit of daily writing will be more important than the results

Remiman said...

What a delightful smorgasboard of images (I love Grommet's face!) and poetry.
The story of the woman in a Bankok prison is heart wrenching.

I used "spiral" today, am contemplating "perennial", and now i guess I'll have to go back and condider "absolve".
I'm glad I got here early to read and view your wit and whimsy.

dinzie said...

You have to be fast and pre-guess where those fantails will be to photograph them :O) McD got lucky with a couple of nice shots ...

I now have a few photos (nor fantails) in Flickr under dinzie.........

You have grommet we have Micky who is far to skilled in fantail and silvereye hunting......

Carole said...

Wow! Now you've got a camera you seem to be more creative than ever and your output is amazing. In the first poem, I like the cleansing water at the end, after all the mud and filfth. I love the half rhymes on the first and last lines of your second poem. I don't think we have Fantails.

I read about this poetry challenge somewhere else. I feel that I must have a go even if some of the poems aren't new.

wendy said...

so odd...easter being a fall thing for you guys....spring is trying to get a foothold here..snow in the forcast for thursday...

mcdinzie said...

I just love that cat...what a great shot.

Love the way you are going camera mad...I suspect you always were but now the results can come so fast its great!!!

Saw that article on that my my....I hope that there are a few people out there listening to least she lived to regret.

Interesting how she said that she had got resolution on all things except the shame she brought her country....thats a big burden to shoulder.

michelle said...

the first poem broke my heart. What a great post!

chiefbiscuit said...

catherine - I'm like you, I think of them as cute and full of life and charm. I think the exercise is great - gets the writing flowing! I'm not sure I like what I'm writing, but at least I'm writing.

rel - Yes it's a of of work keeping up with the prompts isn't it? Thanks for kind comments (I like Grommet's face too - I had his complete attention for once! And so I used it!)

dinzie - Thanks for the tip - I'll keep trying. There are so many around at the moment - lots of insects in the air and warm, mild days. I'm afraid Grommet does kill his fair share of birds too.

carole - Oh yes do have a go - a poem a day - it's fun! Thanks for your encouraging comments.

wendy - Difference is Good! Yes we used to use chickens and blossom as an easter symbol- an tradition from o/seas. But now we do our own thing more - stand on our own feet; several generations removed from the Motherland now!

mcd - Thanks for your boost to the camera power!!!
Yes it really got to me, her story, as I thought she paid a very high price - and how did she survive eleven years of it?? Away from her family ... to me it would be a version of hell. I'm sure it was to her too.

michelle - Thanks. It broke my heart too seeing the programme about her. But at least she's home with her family now.

leonie (chocolate covered musings) said...

*loving* the poems!

chiefbiscuit said...

Leonie - Thanks! :)

Katherine said...

'smorgasbord' is a good word to describe this post; an array of treats.
I admire how you're creating a synthetic and idiosyncratic artform with this blend of interesting chat, startling photos and mind-tweaking poetry.

chiefbiscuit said...

katherine - You can come visit anytime! :)

Shameless said...

grommet! lovely.

lampad said...

I really really like this poem -- I can see the bicycle wheel spinning in my head.

Kamsin said...

I can remember sitting in a Bangkok guest house reading a notice requesting people to visit the "Bangkok Hilton" and the foreigners imprisoned there. I didn't go, but there is something quite chilling about being locked up in a foreign, third world prison.
Anyway, I agree about taking photos of birds, I never seem to manage it. I think I don't have the patience with things which don't like to stay still!


'how this all harbours light'