They say I am rock in matters of work
that the holes I dig are smooth-sided and honest
my shovel tip sharp, and handle engraved
with the flank-lines of gneiss, the green hold of forests.
But today I wake as pelvic-pink soapstone
with a ditch to shoulder, my buckling knees
tip me crown to the bottom of this infinite fissure
the litter of night time, the folding of trees.
Author’s note: This poem was fuelled by bare legs on hot concrete, the traditional Japanese garden at Pataka Museum and Art Gallery on Waitangi Day, and my return to full time work. Here, I’m exploring the baffling twin-set self I experienced in the early days of Term 1 last year: the coexistence of my reputation as an authentic, confident teacher, with my private anxieties at meeting 120 teen strangers’ needs – and being liked by them – along with a seemingly unscalable workload. Working out the worry!
Author bio: Nicola is a poet, activist, and teacher of English and Social Studies at Kāpiti College in Raumati, where she also coordinates the Eco Action Group. Her first poetry collection, leaving my arms free to fly around you, was published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa in 2011. She is currently completing her second manuscript, entitled Working the tang.
Paula’s note: I loved the gracefulness of each line in this poem. The enigma and the restraint. I loved the contrasting verses and the way image resonates so profoundly. If the images function as metaphor, and indeed they do, they are open and pliable. I love the literal presence of tools that can then ignite the dual sides of self. The title too is enigmatic, potent. I was lead from the place where one stands to the regard of others and then oscillated between these two meanings as the image took me from keenness and capacity to doubt and incapacity. The final face is striking, ‘the folding of trees,’ and is a perfect, effervescent tablet to leave at the end. It sets the whole poem sparking again.
I’ve returned to reread this poem. It’s cleverly crafted with its two complementary stanzas, its subtle end rhymes and internal rhymes, its conversational voice running along inside the formal verse. Bravo!
Kia ora John – thank you very much 🙂