Poetry & Tarts


I wish I could have peeped into your mind as you read just the title – I bet the image (for some) was a tad salacious.

Sorry, it’s rather less exciting… “Poetry & Tarts” refers to an event for New Zealand’s 2016 National Poetry Day, for which the Rotorua Mad Poets Society planned a month of poetry related activities for the community.
The event offered poetry readings by Mad Poets or the public – their own or other poets’ published works; and the only “tarts” available 9671_mini-raspberry-tarts
were not among those participating,
but sitting on plates for the refreshment break.

I’m hoping Poetry & Tarts will be included in 2017’s poetry celebration!
Maybe they’ll allow costumes to be worn!

Are there poems on the Tart theme? One jingle comes to mind:

“An empty gut, an aching heart –
Both fulfilled by a lovely tart.

(origin unknown)

If you know of others, feel free to either add them to the comments (accessible once you have clicked on the title of this post), or if a longer piece, post it at your blog then please pop back and leave a link to it in the Comments.
I Really hope to see more Tart poems (of either connotation)


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Wow, still available


…after all these years

But nearly sold out. Copies still available at the Rotorua Museum Gift Shop, at c.$25 per print copy.

(This post featured at Red Penn Reviews shortly after it was published…)

“An anthology of poetry with a Rotorua theme, compiled from works of the “Mad Poets’ Society”, contributing poets, and young Rotorua poets.

ISBN = 978-0-473-18795-8.

I’m feeling fairly smug as at last I have had six poems of mine published.
All the poems are in three ‘chapters’
One is those with a Rotorua theme.
Two is poems from children and young poets from eleven to seventeen years old.
Three is entitled ‘Reflections’ and you may expect a variety of subjects and forms.

Numbers for One Son


One Son, One Crash, Nine Injuries, One Band

One night, near midnight, the telephone rang, waking us from sleep. The voice asked for verification that I was mother to Michael, and told me she was calling from Auckland Hospital’s Emergency department. I repeated what she said, so my husband would know what was happening. He immediately sprang from bed, and started hauling suitcases down from the cupboard above our wardrobe.

“Michael’s been in an accident?”

“He’s in a critical condition?”

“He may not survive the night?”

“It’s a nine-hour drive.”

“There are no planes to Auckland from here.”

“We’ll hit the road. If there’s any question of permission for any procedure, you have it. Just, please, keep him alive until we arrive.”

Our clothes jammed in the cases and we were on our way, stopping to collect the father of Michael’s girl-friend, who’d been in the same crash. We drove all night, only stopping for a coffee and snack when fatigue hit the driver. We arrived at the Emergency Department at about the same time as the business rush-hour was in full crawl.

“He’s not here,” the man said. I nearly collapsed, thinking he meant our boy had died. “He’s up in the Critical Care ward. I’ll walk with you to show you the way.”

We parted company from the girl’s father, as she was in a general surgical ward, and arrived on the CC floor. Sitting on a bench seat outside the ward was the driver, Richard, his head in his hands. Beside him, another of Michael’s friends. I went straight to Richard, sat beside him, and held him close.

“Richard, this is not your fault. We do not blame you. Please, don’t blame yourself. I’ll call you in as soon as they let Michael have visitors.”

We entered the CC ward, and were led to Michael’s cubicle; there he lay, his usually soft tan skin pallid, eyes closed as he drifted through the induced coma that rested his body. Both of us had tears in our eyes, but we fought them off. Our worry and misery were far outweighed by Michael’s condition.

He had taken nine points of impact and damage when the car had been T-boned at an intersection, and he in the passenger seat took the full impact:

A skull fracture, and concussion;
A fracture of the humerus, and tearing of the ulnar;
A hairline fracture of the C6 vertebra (with potential paralysis);
Two fractures of the pelvic cradle – one at the front, one at the back;
His spleen had been shattered and splattered throughout his abdominal and chest cavity;
Abdominal organs had been forced through his diaphragm (they found his stomach between a lung and his heart)!

They had already removed all traces of his spleen from the abdominal cavity, replaced all organs, and repaired the diaphragm. He wore a neck brace until the C6 hairline fracture showed signs of healing and it was safe to manage without it. They operated to repair the arm fracture.

In the meantime, over the days of visiting him, we all were able to stay in the hospital’s family hostel, with a community kitchen and quiet room. It was a steep walk up to the level of the hospital, and I was using a walker frame, being in recovery form my own health problem.

The girlfriend’s condition was far less concerning than my son’s. She whined about the possibility of a slight scar on her face. Her father had by then been joined by her mother and younger sister – lovely girl. The mother was my husband’s “boss”, and she told him he had to return home, to complete a routine end of the academic year task. So I remained in the family hostel on my own, but managed to get up to the CC ward everyday – just to sit as “wall paper” as Michael lay there, needing quiet, or companionship when he was up to talking.

They operated to pin his pelvic fractures, and advised me he’d be out of surgery and ready to see me at about four-thirty. I returned to the hostel, listening to the radio during the long surgery. When I walked into the CC ward the anaesthetist and surgeon were attending him still. They urgently waved me away, and said they’d fetch me when he was awake and ready. Something was wrong, I could feel their despair.

I waited for another hour and a half before they came out to fetch me. Oh, God. Their faces were the colour of a hospital sheet.

“He’s not coming out of the anaesthetic.” I didn’t wait to hear any more.

Around his bed, the anaesthetist stood at Michael’s head, the theatre nurse stood at Michael’s left side, monitoring his pulse with his hand – watching the wave lines on the monitor. I stood at his right, holding his hand, tears running down my cheeks. It seemed this would be his last hour on earth.

Then, I realised – even in a coma, some patients still hear what is spoken directly to them. Michaelbeing a musician (bass guitar, drums, and vocals in a small rock band) I began talking music to him.

“Michael? The boys in the band are waiting for you. They need you, Michael.”

“Michael, I’ve been listening to the radio all day – The Rock station – all your favourites.”

The medicos were murmuring to each other sotto voce, their tones tinged with concern. I didn’t want to hear their words. Then I remembered something The Rock’s announcer had said.

“Hey, Michael. You know what I heard on the radio? AC/DC are touring down under.”

“Jesus, he’s got a grip!’ cried out the theatre nurse.

“That’s a good response.” The anaesthetist glanced up at the sudden spike on the monitor. “He definitely heard that.

In between silent sobs as I tried to sound calm, I said “Michael, if you come up out of this… if you can wake up… I will get your to an AC/DC concert… even if we have to fly across the Tasman.”

His grip of both our hands was sharp, sudden, strong! Thank you, Lord Jesus.

I kept talking about our favourite band, naming their songs, which videos we both liked best… Heck, I even sang one! I gave time between talking for him to respond – and for the medicos to watch the ever increasing pulses of the monitors of his brain activity, his heart… then, at last…

“Wanna see AC/DC, Mum.” A soft, whispered mumble, but there he was, back from the depths of near death.

Gradually over the next hour as the theatre nurse and I quietly spoke to him about music, his friends… he brought – he fought – himself back to full consciousness. Only when he was stable, and awake but tired – a natural tiredness – could I leave him to sleep.


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Post Script: AC/DC announced they would extend their tour to New Zealand, to Auckland. At the time, I had relapsed (shortly after Michael’s surgeries were completed, and my body collapsed after bearing all the stress) and was again confined to my own hospital bed at home. But Michael, and his sister, did get to hear our favourite band perform live. I have to admit, I cried as I couldn’t be there with them.

Let’s Play ‘Pretend’


d “Let’s play ‘pretend’,” she’d say. And on a dairy farm, miles from the nearest town, and a long way to walk to play at your friends’ farm…what else could you do when you’re bored with dolls, toys, colouring in, and all the other indoor activities. On a sunny day, playing ‘pretend’ was the best way to fill our day.

“Let’s pretend we’re Robin Hood?”

“No, there’s only two of us here, and I’m fed up of being the Sherriff of Nottingham!”

“Let’s pretend we’re Sir Edmund Hillary!”

“No. That only means we walk up the hills to the ridge at the top. That’s not real climbing.”

“Well, let’s pretend we’re Biggles and Ginger.”

“Yes, let’s. Can I be Biggles this time?”

“No, you’re too small to fit in the cockpit. I’ll be Biggles.”

So that means I’m Ginger. Like I was the last times we’ve pretended.

“You don’t mind, do you.” It’s not a question. She’s already heading off down towards the cream stand near the gate.

I don’t mind, not really. At least Ginger gets to do more than Biggles, who just tells me what to do. I follow, as always, as we move across to the windbreak of old macrocarpa trees. No breeze today, so no riding the lower branches.

Beside – actually through some of the trees’ trunks – is the old almost-still-a fence, with its posts slanting every which way, probably supported more by the macrocarpa trunks than the posts. Lying across the sagging top wires is the old tree trunk, blown down years ago, stripped by the weather and the seasons of its bark and side branches.

We scramble over the fence into the old orchard, with its rows of neglected apple trees whose windfall fruit feeds the pigs when they’re allowed out from their sties. I’ve never seen the pigs myself. She has. She’s told me why Dad doesn’t want us to come into the orchard – the pigs are wild, she told me, and dangerous. That’s why we mustn’t tell Dad and Mum this is where we sometimes play.

Biggles checks the plane, making sure it’s not damp, it’s got no bugs in it. As she climbs into the cockpit, she gives Ginger orders.

“There’s parts missing, Ginger. See what you can get from the hangar.” So I get some likely-looking twigs, and pass them up to her. I start to climb up into the seat behind Biggles.

“Ginger, I’ll do the safety checks. But we’re short on fuel. Sort it out old chap.” I leave her to stick twigs into borer holes, for switches, climb through the fence again and get the old bucket from under the cream stand. It’s always there. I’ve told Dad about it. I asked him if he wanted me to bring it home, but he said to leave it there.

I carry it up to the house, going in through the front hedge and around to the water tank beside the back of the house. I refuel it, and carry it back to the plane. It’s heavy, and some sloshes out.

“That’s not much fuel,’ says Biggles.

“That’s all the chaps could spare. Besides, you said there was some fuel left from the last flight.”

“Okay, Ginger. Fuel her up.” I pour the ‘fuel’ into an opening in the old trunk. We both know the hole goes right through, and I’ve worked out how to stand and refuel without getting fuel on my feet. I put the bucket down by the fence, and climb aboard.

“Wait till I get the engine running, Ginger. I need you to pull away the chocks.” Biggles starts the engine. “Took, took, tchook, tchook… Took, took, tchook, tchook… Took, tchook, tchooka… Rrrrrrr, Rrrrrr… Chocks away, Ginger!”

I kick away two rocks, and clamber aboard. Biggles has the motor running smoothly, and it starts into a full roar, rising in pitch, as he revs her up and we take off. I run the motor when Biggles runs out of breath, so the engine doesn’t stutter and die.

“I say, Ginger,” calls Biggles. “We’re right over the enemy air field now. Snap those photos now, old boy!” Biggles takes over the engine, while I hold out the camera and take snaps.

Click. Kachick. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik.

“I got four good snaps, Biggles. Will that do the major?”

“Keep snapping Ginger!”

Click. Kachick. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik. Click. Kachik.

“Right-oh, that’ll have to do. One of their planes is out taxiing – they’re after us. Let’s head for home. Well done, Ginge!”

We fly back to base, land, and taxi to our spot beside the runway. Biggles does the safety checks while I replace the chocks.

“Great flight, Biggles. Are we going to see the major straight away?”

“Oh no, Ginger. Let’s stop off at the canteen for a cuppa on the way.”

We clamber through the fence, I replace the fuel bucket, and we walk up the gentle slope to the house – going through the back gate to the kitchen.

“Welcome back chaps. Good flight?” Mum asks. The teapot’s full, and there’s scones on the counter. Help yourselves, won’t you.” She smiles, and leave us to it, going out to the clothes line to lower the prop and unpeg the washing.

“Runs a good canteen, does Mum, eh.”

“Yes, she does.”


Dairy farm, c. 1955-56, in Whangarata, Waikato, New Zealand
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Year 2316 NA


The two of them were bending over a case, browsing through three-dimensional projected images inside the glass case. The young lad kept flicking through the menu, rejecting choices faster than the old man could keep up. He was frowning at the boy’s rushing, and hit the [Project] button on one image, of an old tower building. He seemed to recognise it.

majestichotel_hughferriss
Majestic Hotel, 1930.

“Here… my great-great- great…who knows how many greats, Grandah helped build that!”

 

“Built over 300 year ago, now Grandah.” The boy was reading the projected data

“Do you tell me that?”

“I do, that. Majestic Hotel, it were. What’s ‘hotel’?”

“Do you not know that? A hotel was a place people stayed when they came to visit a town.”

“Like our Home-blocks, then?”

“Not at all, not at all. Guests they were called, and only stayed a short time before moving on, and paid for their staying.”

“They paid for a place to live, then?”

“No, for a place to stay…listen boyo. Back then, people paid for everything.”

“Everything, Grandah? Like, food, and clothes, and school, and—“

“Not school. That were Gummint provided, no cost. ‘Cept for rich people; they paid if their chil-derns were at a private school. Least, dat’s what I’ve read.”

“So, Grandah, this hotel… built ‘way back in th’ olden days then. But it looks same as our home-blocks, dunnit.”

“So it does, so it does. Back then, it were called ‘futuristic’. Wonder what them people’d think if they saw our buildings today.”

Ding! …and the Simulated Automatic Mouth recited…
“Doors close in fifteen minutes. Those on floors thirty-five to fifty, use the express elevators one, two, three, four and five. From floors fifteen to thirty-four, use elevators six, seven, eight and nine. Those on floors fourteen and below, use elevators ten, eleven and twelve to the third floor. Those on the third floor use the rapid escalator in the central foyers. Do not use elevators thirteen and fourteen. At the sound of the next bell, you will have thirteen minutes to clear the building.”

“It’s closing time, Grandah; we’ll have to use a rapid elevator.”

“Do you tell me that, boyo?”

“I do that, I. Can we come again?” He grabbed his mePad and stuffed it into the meBag which began to buzz, ready to follow him.

“Can you not use the Explorer on your edication pad?”

“Yea, I can…but here, it’s more like real. Can we come back, then?” He grabbed Grandah’s hand and began walking to elevator three, along the footway between exhibits. His meBag followed.

“Next time your edication pad posts a day off, we will, for sure.”

Ding!
“Thirteen minutes to clear the building.”

“That’s a promise, is it?”

“It’s a promise, boyo.”


This post created for the Google+ ‘Writers Discussion Group
(Hoping the link take you straight to the starter post there”

Why I love being a writer


I wish I could say “Why I Love Being an Indie Author”*, I really do…but as a writer, my only published work was a selection of poems written for Rotorua’s ‘Mad Poets Society’ collection Rotorua – Spirit In Verse – and that was published ‘way back in 2011.

Between then and now, I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo a few times, ending with a couple of completed drafts, and a partial draft of too complicated a concept…and filed them in the [Disheartened] folder. I’ve written short stories and further poems, submitted some to competitions…filing failed submissions in the [Rejected] folder.

I do have two works on the go…a fantasy, which is going to be at least a two-booker, and a non-fiction work, based on “write what you know”.  That is my ikigai – my full sense of self, self accomplishment, my contribution to society – teaching. A combo of memoir and commentary of schooling in NZ from my enrolment in the education system as a five-year old (1956 – collective ‘gasp’ acceptable) through to lecturing at tertiary level (2007).  Not a short piece, this.

In the meantime, I blog (here), edit for other writers and authors, and write book reviews. I’m also learning epublishing, and when I’m sure I know I’ve “got it”, will put up a treasury of short stories and poems as an Indie Writer/Publisher – as a “tester”, and will seek feedback for other Indie Writers on how well the conversion/publication has behaved.

So…why do I love being a writer? Well, that’s easy. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, held conversations and told stories (some of my best) with or to  imaginary friends, from when I was four. I tell stories to myself now…my imaginary friends evaporated, in my pre-teens, as they do.

I love mastering prosody – the skill of the differing classic or oriental forms, and modern forms. When I’m “in the writing groove”, nothing intrudes.  Especially if I blank out life’s noises by playing hard rock as I write. I play lyric-less music when editing. I can totally ‘zone out’ – off and away from housework, yard work, meal prepping, dishes…

Sure, I admit, I sometime produce some rubbish. I keep everything, as with a revisit or rewrite it may become usable within another work. Writing requires a dedicated space, as NZ teacher/author Sylvia Ashton-Warner knew; I have to ‘make do’ with the areas I have – desktop for work, laptop for my own work, iPad for a switcheroo between the other two – with only the desktop with a permanent home. The others come with me to wherever I feel like writing…

One day, I will be able to call myself an “Indie Author”
– and with a bit of pride, I hope.


*[KDP for Amazon suggested this: ‘Share why you love being an indie author in social media and on your blog…  use the hashtag #PoweredByIndie so we can share your stories as well.]

Teaching the 3 states of H2O


via Photo Challenge: H2O

Immediately, a memory of a lesson on the ‘three states of matter’ arose. It was a science topic for the (NZ Intermediate School) Year 7 class. As we’d done, by the end of the school year (approaching Christmas and the eight week summer break), every other topic in science, I had left it to the end-of-year, for no particular reason.

We discussed the solid state, the liquid, and the gaseous. I demonstrated the difference between water as a gas and a vapour, not wanting them to think steam is the gaseous state.

I held the last science lesson over until the afternoon of the very last dismissal, letting them know they had to pass a practical test in that lesson.

At five minutes to three, I sent a runner to the school office for Mrs. X’s science test kit. He returned with a chilly bin (‘Eskie’, in Aussie), in which were thirty-two ice-blocks.

The practical test was to turn the ice-blocks from their frozen state to a liquid as rapidly as they could. They would pass the test and be dismissed for the holidays as soon as they’d completed the test.

Excited cries of delight as they saw the brightly coloured packages of a variety of flavours, ripping off wrapper, slurping and sucking. They all passed the test and were dismissed one by  one, although one early finisher stayed back until the others had all passed through the door.

He blew me away (and made me laugh uproariously) when he commented…

“I know how we turn that liquid into gas, Miss.”

I waited for the expected punchline…his cheeky grin showed something was coming.

“We’ll fart it out as gas!” he called as he turned and ran from the room.

~ ~ ~

Only in the last moment of the school year could he get away with that…but I would’ve laughed at any stage in the year – in the staffroom!