In the last days of the supermarket
I walked through the fresh section,
wet-stained bins where there used to be fruit.
In the bakery my son said ‘Can we have meringues?’
They looked dubious but I said OK.
The coffee was long gone, the only tea was herbal.
I had better leaves at home.
‘Can we have Fanta?’ the kids asked,
‘Yeah ok,’ I replied, no use worrying about teeth.
There weren’t many shoppers, and no one re-stacked shelves.
In the frozen aisle all I could hear
was the low growl of the freezer motors
and my son saying ‘Ice cream!’
Whaddya know, they still had his favourite.
We could eat it before it melted.
No such luck in the wine and beer.
I knew I had a bit of whiskey in the cupboard.
‘Can I have a Turkish?’ my son said
in the confectionery section, ‘Yeah, you can
have a Turkish,’ I said, and his eyes lit up.
It was still so good to see that.
When the internet went down there was half an hour
of screaming, and I said maybe we’ll try again later,
although I knew that was bullshit. Then the phone
network dissolved and we lost touch
with the grandparents.
When the power blackout came I said let’s pretend
we’re camping and we got out the gas stove
and made a fort out of blankets.
I made them each a milo.
No bath so we went straight to bed
and read Harry Potter seven with a candle
up to where Harry sees the silver doe in the forest.
Every time they said one more chapter I said OK.
When the candle burnt out I said snuggle up.
One head on each of my shoulders.
‘Tomorrow can we go to the pond?’ asked the eldest.
‘Sure,’ I said. I’d told him fantastical things
in the past, like that there really are fairies
inside trees, that willow is a magic wood,
and that crystals can calm us.
The sky seemed thicker than I’d ever seen it,
and I didn’t like the noise, or lack of noise maybe,
that hovered behind the car alarms and occasional dog.
I knew the streets were lined with rubbish,
I heard the wind breathing in the last leaves.
‘Sleepytime,’ I said, and the boys slowly went quiet.
I missed the cats, the way their feet would press into my back
as I lay in bed. My arms were going dead
from the weight of my children’s minds.
I lay there and breathed.
Airini Beautrais is a writer and teacher based in Whanganui. She writes poetry, short fiction, essays and criticism. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in NZ and elsewhere. Her first book Secret Heart was named Best First Book of Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007; it was followed by Western Line (2001), Dear Neil Roberts (2013) and Flow: Whanganui River Poems (2017).