Viv Smith, a Cantabrian at heart now based in Wellington, mentally scribbles in the margins of Board papers. She grieves for the loss of words like ‘twixt’ and groans at bureaucratic use of words like ‘tranche’. She was awarded Hagley Writers’ Institute Margaret Mahy Prize in 2012 and attributes the tutors’ encouragement to apply for the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s IIML completed in 2014. She has published in Turbine, 4th Floor, Takahē, Blackmail Press, Deep South, and Junctures. Some days, she wishes she was a pirate; on others she’s too busy swabbing decks to find her cutlass.
Viv Smith 2014
Within your softness this
small enormous mass becoming
a difficult bugger, all consuming,
while part of me jangles
diverted by car keys ― I am
a friend with a towbar and
Richard needs to off-load.
You never could handle unnatural
holes unleashed by metal piercing
flesh, removing forks from your table
as if a natural spoon curve would
be enough to protect. Today
I can’t countenance the savagery
of knives. For you, I set my table
with wooden spoons and meditate
with keys like mala beads. I calm
my skip-squeaky fantail breath
to light down on the branches
of my lungs, my chest full of slight
touch-point slivers, gentle clawing
for core wood. A careful adaption
to hold as one would implements
that carve a heartful breast away
this mastectomy day. Testing metal,
tasting base, the unsteady knock and
grasp on wood ― I am a friend
clinging to attachment too
damned scared to off-load.
Viv Smith 2014
earthworms have five hearts and people have hearts too but they don’t use them as much as they should. She doesn’t know where the other four hearts have gone. She knows that pink is a bad colour and that her friend Rosa is a bully but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Bella knows that Luka, a small Abyssinian cat, eats ground up meat and kumara. It’s like baby food. Luka is the smallest in the family. She’s like a baby. Her face is like a furry space alien. Or an old lady. At thirteen, Luka is much, much, older than Bella and has sore kidneys. Luka is going to die; Bella knows this. Bella also knows that her Dad will be sad because he’s had Luka since she was small enough to curl up in one hand. Luka was a gift from Lance. Bella knows that her Gran is old and will die too. Maybe not soon, but one day. Bella knows it’s not just age that makes you die. She knows that she has to sit quietly on the big blue sofa at the hospice, drawing, while her Dad delivers the lunches. Bella knows that some of those lunches won’t get eaten. Bella knows, ‘If you can’t remember how to draw a monarch butterfly, then start like this . . . they are black and orange and white.’
People don’t turn into butterflies when they die. Bella knows this. When people die, they go out the dispatch door past the main reception. Bella wants a hamster for her seventh birthday, which is five days away. She knows her Dad would like her to have a hamster like the one he had when he was small. Bella knows you aren’t allowed hamsters in this country so her Dad has been talking about a guinea pig. Bella’s been talking about guinea pig poop. She knows a song about poop. The song only has one word, but she changes the rhythm to tease her Dad. Bella knows this is not a good song to sing at Fish on Fridays. She knows her Dad doesn’t like going into the rooms of the people who don’t want him to serve them fish, but that’s better than not serving. Not serving was sitting by Lance’s bedside for a long time when he was moved out of the big bed at home and into the small bed here. Everyone said, ‘Lance is comfortable.’ But Bella knows that he didn’t feel comfortable. He grew angles that poked her.
Bella knows what her Dad and the Chaplain are talking about. She says, ‘I know that you are talking about not talking about things.’ Often there are so many things to not talk about that the air gets really heavy. It was really heavy when her Dad sat by the small bed for a very long time and Lance wasn’t even in it anymore. Bella knows about the stained glass in the Chapel down the hallway. She says it’s like being underwater. When you cry, Bella knows, the world becomes stained glass. Then your eyes go pink like the white rabbit at school. It has poop like the raisins that Lance used to put in her lunchbox. Bella knows how to draw rabbits. She draws them for the rabbit people who sit down with her on the blue sofa. They don’t talk much but they like her felt tips. Bella knows to bring extras so that they can draw too. Sometimes, they copy her rabbits. Or they draw bees. Or flowers. But mostly they draw butterflies. At times, Bella knows, they forget how. If you can’t remember how to draw a monarch butterfly, then start like this . . . they are black and orange and white.