Justine de Spa

survivor’s lament

there are bones in the throats of my words
there are hands at the throat of the bones in the words
of my keening song

there are strings held by hands
there are hooks on the strings
which the hands reel in
reel me in reel me in
rip my throat
rip my words
take my keening song

they’re a man’s
all these hands
at my throat
all these bones in my words
it’s his hook on the string
reels me in reels me in
hear my keening song

feel the nails of his hands
feel the barb of the bone
feel the gaff in my gut
feel the cleave in my cleft
then tossed on the deck
with my keening song

I lie on the deck with my keening song

I lie long on the deck with my keening song

I spit to be here and he gone

they’re my legs
I can stand
they’re my words
never choke on a man
feel the nerve in my verve
I can sing I can sing
sing my keening song

Maternal Instinct

Maria’s new flatmates were always doing it. Certainly every night but often after work as well. Such joie de vivre rather irritated her. She would shut her studio door and abandon nudes for still life.

In the evening she could not avoid it. The bedrooms were next door. Maria would be reading when they’d begin. She wouldn’t picture the act itself, she couldn’t, but she pictured the climax as she had painted it once,- a woman in shining white holding her arms open to a wide blue sky. The soundtrack next door didn’t fit. She would frown at the wall and listen until it was quiet again. Then the house could sleep and Maria would dream.

Usually the dream was about babies.

The babies were lovely but the fathers were a pain. In one dream the father (balding, sweaty, nylon suit) arrived shortly after the birth, looked at the baby, a girl, and declared to all, “The infant shall be named after myself, Howard”. The nurses scrambled to fill in the forms as Howard senior stood there beaming and grew larger and when Maria looked over at the baby again it had grown a ZZ Top beard and handlebar moustache.

She had read that when a baby is trying to come to earth its spirit form will come to the mother in her dreams. Well, they were queuing up for Maria.

…And Kelvin and Lisa always threw their condoms in the rubbish bin in the kitchen. Sure they sort of covered them up with another bit of rubbish but it seemed a strange thing to do. People usually flushed them down the toilet didn’t they? It wasn’t the kind of thing you could ask your new flatmates about. Still, it was funny for her, making toast in the morning and it seemed as if a perfectly good baby was there, knotted up in a condom behind her. She imagined their little muted cries and heard them call her name. She was quite tender with the rubbish as she tied the tops of the bags down.

Sperm. Lisa obviously didn’t want it and Kelvin could do very little with it again. It wasn’t a bad idea.

Maria went to the chemist and bought herself a plastic needleless syringe.

Ejaculation. Insemination. Conception. Gestation. Birth.

Maria bit her nails. She paced. She poked into the rubbish bin with a pencil and kept a journal of frequency of sheathed ejaculations but she didn’t write that on the cover.

She felt she knew Kelvin better when she started handling the condoms, first with gloves on, then without, and then came the day when she snipped the top off one with the kitchen scissors.

After all she was going to have to practise getting it inside the syringe.

She discovered that Monday to Friday mornings there were on average eight and a half condoms in the rubbish bin. They were cold. There were usually two on Saturday mornings, one from Friday evening before they went out and one from Saturday morning itself, deposited into the bin after they showered and before they breakfasted and went off to tennis. That one was always warm.

She got friendlier with Kelvin over meals. What did his parents do? Did he have brothers and sisters and what were they like? Was there a history of spina bifida or mental illness in the family?

Kelvin and Lisa meanwhile had decided to get married and since they’d been together so long they thought they wouldn’t bother about an engagement. They set the date for six weeks time. It was to be a garden wedding. Maria was invited. She had been a really friendly and interested flatmate they said.

Lisa became clucky and wifely. She was always on the phone arranging things and subscribed to Bride and Parenting. She handmade invitations sampled fabrics. She asked Maria’s opinion of tiaras.

Ask the queen, Maria thought.

And we’re going to start a family straight away, Lisa told her one breakfast and kindly patted her on the back as Maria choked on her eggs.

They strolled off to tennis. It was a Saturday.

Justine de Spa is an artist and writer based in Christchurch. She completed two years at the Hagley Writers’ School and was awarded the Margaret Mahy Prize for her Folio work. She enjoys reading her poetry aloud with the Canterbury Poets Collective.