Poetry Shelf The Summer Season: Poets pick poems – Simone Kaho picks Sarah Broom

 

Rain

She’s been lying
on the jetty for weeks,
cheek flat on the wet
wood, mouth an inch
from a fishgut stain
knife at her elbow.

The rain just keeps
coming down.

She’s as naked
as a shucked scallop,
raw and white
on the splintered planks.

Her breath is as slight
as the sea’s sway

Up there in the bush
all the trees lean down
and inwards, longing
for the creek
which longs
for the sea.

And the grey ocean
nuzzles the sand,
its waves as gentle
as tiny licks of kisses,
their small collapse
an everytime surrender.

Don’t touch her.
Let it rain.
Let it rain.

 

©Sarah Broom, Tigers at Awhitui  Auckland University Press, 2010.

 

 

I find this a terrifying poem, I feel it offers me hopelessness and acceptance intermingled.  There is spiritual movement away from a body before the body is dead, an exquisitely rendered vulnerability, a painfully sensual strength.

The poem opens on a woman who has been lying on a jetty ‘for weeks’; stopped in the middle of gutting fish, to drop her knife and be still, her mouth close to the fouled wood, which has not been cleansed by the continuous rain.

Some violence has been done on her, she is naked, shucked from her clothes, her position of power – she is as a scallop, an image both sensual and visceral. She has swapped places with the sealife – someone/thing else now holds the knife.

The image of the scallop caught me, an icon of fine dining. It’s tender vulnerability is its delectability; I see the taut white quiver of her on the splintered wood.

In the next line we learn she is still alive, breathing, aware. Unable, then, to move – or unwilling. Is she being punished – is she being defiant?

The likening of her breath to the sea’s slight sway is a dizzying; she is at once barely alive, and conversely, a goddess; inexorable and elemental.

We move up and away into the bush with the curved yearning trees, and the sustaining creek – all longing for the sea, which is far away, with this woman.

The sea in the sixth stanza is like an animal or a lover:

‘its waves as gentle
as tiny licks or kisses,
their small collapse
an everytime surrender.’

This verse holds all the tension of lovemaking.  The woman on the jetty is soothed by the sea, it surrounds her, supporting her breath – the elements are the only things that can reach her now.

This is confirmed for us in the next line where for the first time we are given instructions:

‘Don’t touch her.
Let it rain.
Let it rain.’

We are powerless like her. We must not touch her, we must allow nature.

I think of the rain. How we rush to be out of it because of its wetness and coldness. How I knew my cats were ready to die when they didn’t move out of the rain. Here, it replaces human touch, releasing, relentless.

This poem is spare; precisely descriptive and rhythmic. Small sways of lines like shallow breathing. It presents us injury, danger and paralysis – a helpless naked female, who has not lost her allure despite her diminishment, and her vulnerability – yet prevents us from helping or even empathising. Rather asks us to bear witness to her passage. Her transcendence into an elemental rhythm which we cannot take part in.

I feel this poem has helped me understand my father’s death from cancer more, and given me a glimpse into a pain beyond anything I have experienced or imagined.

Simone Kaho

 

Simone Kaho is an Auckland performance poet and a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington. Lucky Punch, Simone’s first book, was launched November 2016. It bridges poetry and memoir as the narrator comes of age in New Zealand’s rich and confusing intersection of pacific and colonial culture. Simone has been interviewed on TV by Tagata Pasifika and will be featured in an upcoming Landfall.

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize is now open for entries, closing March 2nd. Details here.

 

 

 

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