Poem Friday: Rata Gordon’s ‘Thumb in a House’ meaning and narrative spin on tiptoe surprisingly

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Photo credit: Amber McLennan

 

Thumb in a House

pinching flakes for gold

fish two piglets nose

my palm pink cheeks in

the light of a hut

bamboo poles and sheets

with pansies and holes

 

blue rope swing a stick

to sit on dust up

my nose when a car

speeds past a red streak

in our dog’s fur where

the neighbor shot her

 

polar bears live in

the toilet’s white ice

rabbits as big as

your thumb in a house

boat floating in the

hall the cat ate my

mouse and a fantail

 

swam through the window

to say our granddad

has gone somewhere else

but warm pajamas

by the fire a sip

of rain before bed

 

 

Rata Gordon is a seventh generation New Zealander who lives in Grey Lynn. Her life at the moment involves writing, drawing, dancing, and planting trees. Rata’s poems have appeared in LandfallDeep South and JAAM (forthcoming).

Rata’s note: This poem is built from memories of my childhood home in Waimauku, West Auckland. I wrote it while I was in Begnas tal, a wee village in Nepal. I noticed that the physical distance from home made some things float to the surface that I hadn’t thought about for years.

It was an exercise piece for Whitireia’s Online Creative Writing Diploma and was my first attempt at a syllabic poem. I enjoyed the way that the syllabic constraints broke up and stitched together my memories in strange ways. It seemed like a good match for swift and bewildered childhood perception.

Paula’s note: The title of this poem hooked me. Incongruous. Puzzling. The accumulation of detail is the second hook. Sensual. Vibrant. Strange. Earthy. I love the way the lack of punctuation amplifies the momentum of the poem—both the ambiguity and the surprise. This is the gold nugget in this poem. The way each line break holds you back and then in delivering you smashes your expectation. Glorious. For example, follow this thread: ‘the cat ate my/ mouse and a fantail/ swam through the window.’ Constant little dance flurries in your head as the meaning and narrative spin on tiptoe surprisingly. There is also a elastic stretch between home and elsewhere (‘warm pajamas’ and ‘hut/bamboo poles’). You stall and you pirouette as you read, but there is a honeyed fluency. Just wonderful!

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