Saturday, 20 November 2010

Future Indicative

Yesterday our oldest son turned thirty, which seems to be more of a milestone for us than for him. He's always been one to enter a phase before it has actually occurred - so he probably turned thirty (in his mind) about two years ago. I remember when he was just a wee guy, he'd 'play' going to school. He'd take a packed lunch that he'd ask me to make up for him, out to the front door and sit on the steps there and pretend he was 'at school'. Kind of symbolic of how he lives his life - or used to anyway - looking ahead. Already leaving, already left.

I admit to a few fleeting returns yesterday to the day of his birth. But life is so full of the present, there's not much time to dwell in the past.

We called him on Skype to wish him Happy Birthday. (I wonder if we could have imagined that scenario way back in 1980? Maybe. We had both read science fiction.) Yesterday, all the way from Kyoto, Japan, we saw and heard his 2 1/2 year old daughter sing him Happy Birthday and we saw his nearly-one year old son having the time of his life squishing his nose. His wife was also there with her beautiful smile and chortling laughter.

No thirty years ago in Lower Hutt Hospital, we couldn't have imagined all that in our future, we were far too totally engrossed with the present. Far too busy being captured by his very first yawn.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Looking Through

Not long now - days in fact - and I will be posting off the m.s. for 'Born To A Red-headed Woman' (still not certain that will be the final title) to try its luck with a publisher.

I have just watched a wonderful video here with the writer Alice Walker speaking about all sorts of things - a lot to do with writing, a lot to do with connectivity of people and this planet, of the internet and its relevance to a writer today etc. It's an hour long, so a bit of time set aside to concentrate is needed, but I can recommend it as time well spent.

It's an empty feeling letting the m.s. go and not having a present writing project or deadline. Knowing that the whole process from go to woah for this book will take something like a year (or more going by the current climate in publishing, especially it seems, where poetry is concerned) leaves me feeling cut adrift.

Maybe I can give this space a little bit more attention now. Maybe I will post a poem a day for a while (like my poet-friend January. Do pop over to her blog and read the great stuff she's written / writing).

This poem is still in its rough clothes ... I will no doubt work on it a bit more at some stage. In the meantime, here it toddles:

Hillside Road

The struggle of plain marigolds
is easy enough to spot.
On front lawns,
scattered bits of broken
polystyrene cups,
a child's faded, plastic bike
turning brittle in the sun,
mangled shrubs, ragged
edges, clumps of grass
featuring dog crap.

A goods train growls
through the heart
of this suburb
full of front doors
wide open to passages
like tunnels, back lawns
issuing the light
at the end, a bar of sun.

And preventing any view
of hills, the long, wideness
of a sickly, factory wall
where entombed workers
making trains are kept
all day away from any
of the sun's love bites.

I pass a woman who smiles 
and stumbles barefoot 
on rough asphalt, off
to the dairy for some milk
or fags. Maybe a trumpet.
On her T-shirt, written 
in hot-pink letters on black, 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

On the Main Road to Roxburgh

There was a house I remember as a child that looked just like this one. It had that same kind of helpful front porch / verandah with a practical and friendly clothes-line stretched across it. I seem to remember (or favour) the little, wooden bungalow had a green roof and yellow walls.

That house was situated somewhere between Orepuki and Tuatapere on what is now known as the Southern Scenic Route. As kids we would look out for it on our way to or from 'Tap' (Tuatapere's nickname) having made bets beforehand on whether or not there would be washing out on the porch - and whether that washing would be nappies. It was always a fair bet that, as suspected, there would indeed be a line of square, white nappies flapping in the wind. It became something we could depend on. Like Binky McQueen's pink mailbox. Always there. A signpost. Like the duckshooter maimai's along the Waikaia River we would look out for after we shifted from Orepuki to our new location, Otama Valley.

How romantic it sounded, 'Otama Valley', how imaginative and interesting, I thought, to live in a 'Valley'. It was stuff straight out of 'Anne of Green Gables'. In this new place the familiar road became the one between Otama Valley, over the hill to Wendon and then along the river to Riversdale, and whenever we passed the maimais sitting in among the willows like the second little pig's house of sticks, it became an 'in' joke to chant, "My maimai," and wait for the echoed challenge from one or other of six siblings, "No, it's my maimai."

Then there was the bulldozed track up Pyramid Hill which we called the 'main road to Roxburgh' because Dad (the wag) replied that was what it was. One day after one of us asked him why the track was there, he stated, "It's the main road to Roxburgh". From then on when we drove past Pyramid Hill and looked up at the bulldozed track in all its clay-ey glory, one of us nabbed the honour of being the first one to call out, "There's the main road to Roxburgh!" (The fact that it was heading north and Roxburgh was fifty miles behind us to the west, didn't  escape us).

The house in the photo above is in fact located on the real main road to Roxburgh. It is the home of a family I am fond of. Look out for it if you are ever on that road, and give them a wave and a toot. You can even lay bets on whether there will be washing on the line.(But you can take it from me, it's a pretty safe bet in these days of disposables, that there won't be cloth nappies waving in the wind).

Thursday, 11 November 2010


It has been so long now since I've blogged I'm a bit afraid I've forgotten how.

Over the past few days, I've been reading Jenny Powell's new poetry book, 'Vietnam: a poem journey' published by HeadworX. I am enjoying the charming, delicacy of Jenny's work and the dream-like quality of poems that sing their way off the page and into your head. (Go here to read more impressions of the book plus one of the poems on Helen Rickerby's blog 'Winged Ink').
While reading it during one of my work lunch breaks, I had a quiet smile when I was startled by a seagull with flapping wings tapping its beak several times on the glass of the window I was sitting at. It was trying to get at the hot chips I was eating inside the cafe. The poem I was reading at the time happened to be called,'Woman with Birds in her Head'. The flapping gull seemed an apt accompaniment.

I await feedback from a few quarters on the m.s. for my next poetry book, 'Born To A Red-headed Woman'. After that I will be doing some more editing, but I hope not too much. It seems like I've been working on it forever.

Here is a poem that hasn't made it into the book.

‘a wheel within a wheel' from ‘I Dream a Highway’ by Gillian Welch

The world’s awash
with wind. In the sky’s
gun-barrel of cream
and grey, a tiny bullet of blue
spins. Next door’s
rusty, rotary clothesline

wheezes tinny, harmonica
notes. Five homing-pigeons
prance and swerve
into dawn’s sullen light
then lose themselves
in a clot of cloud.

How quiet the roads, 
how quiet the house, until I hear
the terrible summer-buzz
of a blowfly
awake at six a.m.
and fingering the rubbish tins.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...