Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Frankie McMillan’s ‘Ode to Item #410096’

Ode to Item #410096 

Magnetic pen with extendable arm   

You are the cleverest of instruments to attract 

 from under the couch 

 a coin, a tiny screw 

come loose from sunglasses

— maybe even with your telescopic reach – the ring  

 the one that went missing

six months ago and further back, a silver watch,  

the keys to the studio in the woods, the house

 lost in the floods, the man I loved who disappeared, 

and then there’s my mother, red rooster in her arms, 

wandering through the magnetic fields. 

 Oh, wild heart, Oh item #410096 

I am charged with the certain kind of longing that

goes beyond The Department of Loss, beyond the prayers 

of Saint Anthony, even beyond that man I 

mentioned earlier, who held me with such force 

        before spinning off elsewhere. 

 Item #410096 also known as the magnetic pen, let us write

a treatise on retrieval, repatriation and recovery, 

let us travel to the North pole, 

the South pole, let us seek out all missing items  

and persons, 

restore them to this brave, rotating world.       

Frankie McMillan

Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer. In 2016 her collection, My Mother and the Hungarians and other small fictions(Canterbury University Press) was long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. In 2019  The Father of Octopus Wrestling and other small fictions ( CUP)  was listed by Spinoff as one of the ten best New Zealand fiction books of 2019. In the same year it was shortlisted for the NZSA Heritage awards.

 In 2013 and 2015 she was the winner of the New Zealand Flash Fiction Day competition. She has won numerous awards and creative writing residencies including the Ursula Bethell residency in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury (2014) the Michael King writing residency at the University of Auckland  ( 2017) and the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship (2019). Her latest book, The Wandering Nature of Us Girls ( CUP) was launched in August, 2022.

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