From Renée's garden

The Red Hat

Kia ora koutou, these are some lines I wrote around fifteen years ago and came across when I was searching for something else. I read them, tweaked a bit, made changes, additions, cut lines, words  – as  you do…

The Red Hat

On a table at the Arts Centre

a hat – an upside down red felt pot

swinging red and yellow dreadlocks.


One – it makes me laugh – and two –

I like dreadlocks.  This is the closest

I‘ll get to those beaded braids.


The old black one is replaced


magically –

gauze wings lift – fantails spiral

and while Peggy sings

Is that all there is – Bogart and Bacall

appear in the mirror, clapping

follow me out on the street.

I hold my head high – at an angle.


This red hat becomes my ally

my mentor, my companion

trained to defend, made

for this purpose.

Loyalty and commitment

24 hours a day whether being

worn or not.

But, it says –

I have to rest sometime.

At those times I lie awake

eyes alert, all systems go.  I won

the initial bout but that was in the daytime.

That red hat  – a patchwork

of laughter, herbed lamb racks,

Lorca – a waltz around Te Wairoa –

Ko au te awa – ko awa te au –


Out of sight the old black one waits – I know

it’s there – it knows I know –

it will be a perfect fit.




If words won’t make a house that stands, we’re all naked in the dark…

After Hours Trading & The Flying Squad… Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, (Carbide Press 2021)

I first met Jeffrey a lifetime ago when he emailed me to say there was a spelling mistake in an essay I’d written.  I was totally disbelieving. Me? A spelling mistake? But he was right.

He was also, I discovered, a poet, a writer of memoir, and an adjunct Fellow at the University of Canterbury. We have communicated spasmodically since that first email. You’ll probably have read his memoir The Lost Pilot, about his father who survived a kamikaze mission in WW2 and how Jeffrey met up with the family of the pilot killed on that mission.

His poetry has received wide acclaim and its not hard to see why. After Hours Trading, the first part of his latest collection – Pakeha Moteatea – Southern Shanties, is a series of voices, Miner’s voices, remembering the mines, the town, the people – the ones who fitted in and the ones who didn’t. It’s the language that got me. Straight to the heart – these phrases, these words, so evocative, funny, suspicious of strangers especially ones who want to tell them how to live…

 don’t know who these pricks think they are

coming down here

fucking us about

big ideas

big mouths

…and another voice…

I’ve done my dash

They can have the pit

But I’ll tell you this much for free

If I had my time again

I’d still not


What struck me immediately, what drew me in, what draws me back again and again to this collection is the voices. These are poems made for saying aloud – words are the Main Players, they’re the Chorus, the Scene Shifters and they’re also the Witnesses, the Observers nodding silently or shaking their heads…

Walter Nash was here

all the way from Kidderminster


old Christian Socialist

sat on a seat where the Railways bus

stopped outside the Post Office…

In The Mist …there’s a poem to Neruda, one about Blake, a mouse writes of Mandela, Mandela writes of a mouse…there’s one to a dog…

Keo te whakaako au I taku kuri

I am teaching my dog Maori

Nobody will object

outside the supermarket

When I tie Tiaki to the bike stand

And bark, ‘E noho!’


‘Enoho, what a lovely name!’

one will say..

 and this from… In 1972

Your loaves of prison bread

in me rise up, these hidden

never tended scars that bleed..

and from The handpiece

For Jack Gilbert

I was a Lister handpiece once, my philosophy was simple, ‘bend and sweat’. I was at one with the sheep at my mercy, words were curses, work my thinking.

By this I learned the grammar of my skin. A body was all I would ever need. The sweat was me, the air, the shining light, a bleating chorus standing white in pens to be shorn of meaning, huddled

together, sentences strung in the mouth of a language dying
at birth. Like them, I trust the tally clerk, the man who counts: if words won’t make a house that stands, we’re naked in the dark.

Tino pai, Jeffrey, tino pai…


































  • Windows On My Mother

    Her hands hover over the fruit
    She picks up a pear, half turns
    from the bench, pauses,
    puts the pear down.
    Her hands hover over the fruit.

    Click on her hands.

    They held, they soothed, lifted,
    stirred and mended, turned on and
    off taps, switches, bedroom lights.
    They stitched, folded, carried, chose
    Turned pages of a million books
    knew just what they were doing.

    Her eyes wander over the fruit
    Definition is dimmed
    The shutter closing over the light

    Click on her eyes

    There are the Himalayas upright
    like toys in a row in the shelf
    there is an ocean she looked back across
    here is a child, or a man, or a child, or a man, or a child.
    Words leap from pages, from her eyes to her self
    Everything she wanted and didn’t want to see.

    She stands at the sink bench
    Her back eighty three years straight
    Now it looks ready for wings

    Click on her back.

    At ten years straight to hide from teasing
    Fifteen years straight to hide the scream
    Twenty five years straight to keep
    happiness in perspective.
    Thirty five to bear burdens and babies
    Fifty as a matter of principle
    Sixty a matter of pride
    Eighty three because that’s how
    it’s always been — straight.

    Her mind slides over the fruit, they
    do not have names, they are
    how they feel, they are their
    weight, they are a bit of a problem.

    Click on her mind.

    The roads once led to cities
    buildings are emptying fast
    the lifts are crowded
    streets without signposts
    behind closed doors the
    sound of conversation,

    Her heart beats onwards
    under the tidy pink shirt
    under the mottle of skin
    the bird hollow ribs

    Click on her heart.

    Click on her heart — there’s the crying child
    Click on her heart — there’s the tight stored fury
    Click on her lips — there’s her smile,

    Click on my mother and she’ll disappear
    into that tiny pinprick of light in
    the centre of my screen
    then that too will be gone
    she will dance beyond all this, beyond
    hands, sight, mind, heart and windows.

    Sarah Delahunty

One chapter. One week.

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One chapter. One week.

One chapter. One week.

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These Two Hands, a memoir by Renée

Launched in 2017.
Available in good bookshops now.

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