The Lemon Tree

She remembers him waving.
He fixed the lemon tree with salt,
carved his name on the wooden spoon
she used for mixing pikelets. She said
she’d wait. This was before.

Now the Band packs up her troubles…

The club went south to tramp.
One day the boys played bulrush.
She made scones and apple shortcake.
He whipped the cream, sneaked a lick
from the beater. This was before.

In her old kitbag…

The Lieutenant-Colonel sings,
the minister prays — reads a poem,
talks about sacrifice. She smells
mint, remembers the tomato sauce.
She’d sterilised the bottles.

Now there’s a Lucifer to light your fag…

It all got spilt, the spoon was broken,
the bottles, her arm. He got a warning
from the constable after he chopped down
the lemon tree, the frame on the photo
of him smiling. This was after.

And the band smiles and smiles and smiles

This is after of course.


The knock…the cop calls

The cop
tall, dark,
notes the bottle
the glass
Want a drink, officer?

Not drunk but affected
he tells his iPhone 6 plus
no record —
he’s disappointed.

A serious offence, Ma’am

setting fire to articles

in a drum
in this heat.

Need a statement.

Station tomorrow.

And go easy on that.

No driving.

He goes

I get the keys.

What fresh hell is this?

What fresh hell is this?

Storm Leaves

She met someone else
Tried to fight it

Last night, she’s so sorry,
They went too far.
She’s very upset
She loves me really

She had to tell me
We agreed we’d be honest

I don’t say don’t go
I don’t say let’s discuss this
I don’t say please
I’m a block of pounamu
In very deep water
Just go, I say. Now.


I put the sheets
crazy patchwork quilt
track shoe
dirty socks
in the old drum
pour petrol
chuck a match

I find the Allen key
break up the bed
lug the remains
to the drum

the room is empty of her.

my mother
on my shoulder
I polish
scrub wipe
rub sweep
her out of here

I stand in the shower
for an hour
fuck the environment
new clothes
new shoes
new bottle
I’m clean.

I’m okay.
I’m okay
I’m okay

The plot thickens…

The plot thickens…


Maine Coon Cats are (allegedly) cuddly
but Gabriel missed that gene. He’s a
medium — size tiger in a cat’s body, sly,
cunning, thinks he’s smarter than me.
He’s right.

How he got to Levin is his secret
but while I’m sniffing that teal shirt
he ducks out from behind a shop
door and wiggles his ears in a way
that says, Gotcha.

I shout, ‘There’s a Maine Coon Cat
called Gabriel in your shop’. I charge
over to the window but — you’ve guessed it —
big shit Gabriel has scarpered. The woman says
now she’s heard everything.

‘Get back home Gabe,’ I yell. I feel a fool
Not unusual. To hell with him. I only look
for Gabe in the mornings. Clint is afternoons.
Gabe’s owner has offered a large reward
plus a good retainer. I’m broke.

Maine Coot Cats are large and friendly
the online site says but there’s a comment
from someone who says my Coon Cat
Caesar is snarly, bit my hand and ate my
canary. I showed him the door.

Enough. Bugger Caesar. Bugger Gabe.
Think of Clint. Where do you hide a body?
A river? The sea? Why does the shirt
smell of Little Sister’s perfume? Why
was it in the opshop?

Little Sister likes opshops. She likes
The opshops along the Coast. She never
buys new. She buys a dress or shirt
wears them for a few months then
recycles them.

Has she recycled Clint? Or simply
his shirt? Where the hell is Gabe? I need
the money. His owner says he can’t live
without Gabe. Gabe’s his life. Jaysus.
But beggars can’t be choosers.

Then —
something moves on the back seat…


Menopause (inspired by an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin ‘The Space Crone’ 1976)

Ursula urges me to
become a Crone
to not bemoan
my declining hormones

to wear grey hair
catch a space ship
somewhere out there
so I can share

my wit, my wisdom
my years of fertility
raising children
(ensuring my humility)

so the fourth planet Altair
can learn about the human race
from a woman (once a virgin)
and now a Crone (on loan)

But I’m all for my inner space
and I won’t go grey
well, not yet, not today
there’s plenty of time

because I still want to play
to flaunt in the twilight
my age now my highlight
on the cusp of something

almost a Crone — not quite
ready for Ursula’s throne
but not afraid either
thumb out — hitching a ride

not looking back, nor
particularly forward
pausing as they say — oh,
but not for men

for me!

Maggie Rainey-Smith
(First published, New Sealand Book, Vol 17, Issue 78, Winter 2007)

Lilith sings

Once upon a time when the earth was blue
and the cross turned over and the grey stars sighed
I played Etta James and I thought of you

how we dived for love and for wreckage too
how we stamped and sang and waited for lies
once upon a time when the earth was blue.

Why do the songs always come on cue?
Why do the words slither and sigh?
I played Etta James and I thought of you

I was told that a garden only grows rue
when the memory of laughter lies fallow and dry
once upon a time when the earth was blue.

There’ s a house on a hill where the rent is due
it’s the place that the flesh and the fires deny
I played Etta James and I thought of you

here where the bread and the heart balance true
here where the blood and the body cry
once upon a time when the earth was blue
I played Etta James and I thought of you.


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