Poetry Shelf poems: a poem for a cold day, Frankie McMillan’s ‘Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle’   

Tamaki Mākaurau is a mix of freezing and blue sky and thumping rain, and here I am wondering if my second batch of seeds will survive (the first got blasted by a gale all over the show), and I am falling into little black holes, and then scaling the sides by diversion writing for the love of writing, and cooking meals for the love of cooking, and reading books with the the tūī outside pitching in, and avoiding news reports, and then feeling bad because I need to know what’s happening, and to keep up with numbers and strategies, and then I am slumping back down the black hole with the constant reminder of how unkind we can be to each other, and yes, miraculously I am scaling back up the slippery sides with Jon McGregor’s luminous fiction, and turning the daily batch of sour dough,

and yes, replying to a hundred children who have sent me lockdown poems, and then there it is, the thumping rain and the politicians who need to be muted, and me worrying that Ashley and Jacinda might not get enough sleep, and then heck, here I am reading the introduction Emma Espiner has written for her Poem Picks this Friday, and I am back in the light, back in the comfort zone, remembering the hottie poem Frankie McMillan sent me, me the eternal hottie lover, me with my snake hottie wrapped about me, as our icy house waits for the fire to be lit, and the sun starts to shard through the black clouds, and Odetta sings the blues, like her voice is part saxophone, part honey, part feet travelling over the corrugated tracks

Five ways of looking at a hot water bottle   

i

Dearest rubber hottie
you can be as wicked as I, you spring
holes in your back, drench the bed
you smell of the sulphur fields
of the Ukraine

ii

I carry you round the cold house
wrapped in your woollen cover    
slip my hands under, just for the thrill
of your boiled rubber bite

iii

I have to say the braille
of your ribbed back speaks
to my fingers
more than your gobbly mouth
that tends to splutter and steam and scald
and though we both get over it, I suspect
resentment might corrode in there                                    

iv

We always wreck the things we love— 
like trees. like dirt. like certain birds 
not to mention the slow perish
of various plantations

v

Dearest rubber hottie 
please know if the bed is ever drenched again
it’s not the worst thing in the world
just one of them

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short story writer who spends her time between Ōtautahi/ Christchurch and Golden Bay. Her poetry collection, There are no horses in heaven, was published by Canterbury University Press.  Recent work appears in Best Microfictions 2021 (Pelekinesis) Best Small Fictions 2021 (Sonder Press), the New Zealand Year Book of Poetry ( Massey University), New World Writing and Atticus Review.

Frankie’s Monday Poem: ‘Girls raised by swans’

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