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And me, I’m industrious in the kitchen
avoiding the humbug of humanity, happy
in the suds ignoring smug smirks from
the nons as the smokers go out
to pollute the fresh air,
as if I care.

                 from; The funeral party by Ruth Arnison






  A record of thanks
After the rains
Motorcycle Ballerina
Grin and bear it
Goodwill to all men
A blessing really
Tall poppies
The funeral party
My neighbour




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Ruth Arnison


Ruth is the administrative assistant for a research team at the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand. Her poems and short stories have been published in literary journals, anthologies, and ezines in NZ, Australia, the UK and US.

She is the editor of Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ), an arts in health charity. The A4 sized three-fold poetry cards are delivered each quarter to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices throughout New Zealand’s South Island. When funding permits each edition is also transcribed and bound into Braille booklets.

Each year Ruth organises a PoArtry exhibition as a fundraiser for Poems in the Waiting Room. This year's exhibition, Bellamys at Five, is a celebration of PitWR's 20th edition and fifth birthday. 30 national and international poems from the 180 which have appeared in the cards over the last five years have been offered to NZ artists to interpret in any way they wish. See waitingroompoems.wordpress.com and bellamysatfive.wordpress.com






 A record of thanks

Considering that
I feel ill standing on a wharf
watching boats rock’n roll

throw up at sea

withdraw the contents
of my stomach on light aircraft

I’d like to thank
whoever is responsible for
the earth’s airpocketless revolutions


After the rains

After the ten day rains we ease our way out of
the house where we have become to ourselves
and each other, unbearable.

He points out the lettuce tree like the one at kindy.
I correct with ‘cabbage.’ As long as there’s no
brussel sprout trees he’s not bothered.

He whispers, see the wind breezing the beautiful
, and the daffodils nod in delight
at this recognition.

Our stale and snappy winter words have been
released and spring’s warmth is seeping
into our conversation.

I’ve got little hummings bubbling inside me and
I haven’t swallowed a bee.
I catch his sideways
look and we burst out laughing.


Motorcycle Ballerina

Leaning into curves, balancing on
tyre rims, angling away from
gravelled edges.

Dusking through tree shadowed
streets, mapping out the minutes,
staging her own performance

she collects him from his ballet
class. He, the pillion passenger,
pirouettes into the night.


Grin and bear it
im Pat Lawton

1. Hair raising

Last night your head was shaved,
the few remaining strands
made you feel, Trumpish.

Today you rang suggesting a test drive.
We parked at St Clair, meeting
the Southerly head on.

Hands trembling in pockets, you were
courageous. Hands at alert, I was ready
to scramble or scream, Stop that wig.

Inside the Saltwater café we celebrated,
leaving the beaten wind howling
at the door.

Mr Pig, Mr Pig let me come in, I laughed.
The only trouble is, you said, I still have
hair on my chinny chin chin.

2. Wig instructions:

Be careful not to put your head in the
oven, you may damage this
synthetic wig

You had never contemplated putting your
head in the oven but would talk to
your specialist.

Maybe it was a side effect of the chemo,
the desire to delve into the depths
of your oven.

3. Full House

A day trip for chemo. All seats taken
so you dragged a chair from the
waiting room,

creating an epicentre in the whirlpool
of patients hooked to their

You’d forgotten your book so compiled
a shopping list, visualising the empty
spaces in your pantry.

4. Ginger scones and apricot jam

We’ve been phone calls apart for days.
My common cold, life threatening
for you.

Saturday morning wellness sees us
gathering netting at the Red Barn,
strawberry protection.

Too soon to return to solitary confinement
we direct the car towards Port, stopping
for a peek in Posh, and

a mosey in Myfanwy’s, before salivating
over ginger scones and apricot jam
at The Port Royale Café.

5. Sunday evening at St Clair

Tomorrow you’re spending the day
infusing a cocktail of new drugs.
This evening

we’re on the beach, paddling
in freedom, tossing old wounds,
new fears,

hot itchy wig words into the sea.
The incoming waves sift
through our pain,

returning the future to our feet.
As we top the sand dune, sunlight
plays on gorse.

6. A long weekend

I’m listening to your excitement –
a long weekend ahead. Back to
15-minute tea breaks and

hurried lunch hours you’ve rejoined
the workforce. With one chemo to go
we’re excited about our

extended vocabulary. We can now
include healthy words like hairdressers,
and tomorrow.

7. A cough

I ring to arrange a morning walk,
startled to hear the unwellness
in your voice

The cough is back, leaving you
breathless. I offer to come up,
hang out your washing.

You can’t be bothered. I feel
an autumnal chill
in the air.

8. Unhappy endings

This morning I’m sitting by your bed
massaging your hands, soothing
your skin and my anger.

We still have miles of walking, hours
of talking, and autumn shopping
to finish.

You shudder awake, smile and whisper,
There’s nothing we can do, just
gotta grin and bear it.


Goodwill to all men

Elbows adrift he cleared the way to the
raspberry stall ignoring the line of women.
Goodwill to all men but stuff if he was gonna
queue up behind this tinsel of females.

He had other things to do on a Christmas
eve, only the wife always counted on him
for the berries and no wardrobe of women
was gonna make him muck around all day.

Bloke refused to serve him ’cos he jumped
the queue. Hell he’d never managed leapfrog
at school so what sort of fantasy saw him
jumping this load of lovelies.

Blowing a raspberry in the stallholder’s face
he headed off to face trolleys trundled
in time to Silent Night or whatever music
enticed customers to part with their cash.

Bing was crooning about the snow
falling, so even he tossed in a pack of
mincemeat pies and shivered
as he passed the freezers.

The blond kid on checkout picked up his
vibes along with the raspberries and pies
She bagged the lot before venturing, be
goodwill to all men when it’s over sir.



She hated confined spaces she said. Always
used the fifth floor stairs, avoiding
the closeness of the lift.

The MRI scanner reminded her of the butcher,
the way he pushed meat through the machine
into the waiting skins.

Think of it as a time machine, the doctor had said
Think about what year you’d like to go back to,
or even forward.

While the scanner beeped and drilled she drifted
back to the days when wrinkled referred
to the bottom sheet,

a scarred face was just a misspelling and deaf
in parent speak was another word for

No, backwards didn’t interest her. Besides her
partner always said the scars added

She mulled over the butcher scenario. Would she
be churned out as pork, veal, smoked or dried,
Andouille, Bockwurst, Chorizo.

With a final fart-like beep she emerged, stunning
the attendant by saying, Salami thanks, I’d like
to be cured.


A blessing really
for Noela

An afternoon at Port stocking up on books before
visiting the newly discovered old cemetery. We
parked by a roadside graveyard; two cars,
minus front wheels, stranded.

And one headstone; he a minister died 60 years
before her, his wife. My comment, “How sad, all
those years on her own.” And your reply, “Well it
may have been a blessing.”

Always looking for a positive angle you said,
“ Maybe they never got on, continually fought.
And then she gets 60 years peace while he
rests in it.”


Tall poppies

Be wary when planting
poppies. We are an
island nation.

How can we ask the wind
to fill our regatta sails
and then

when tall poppies are
knocked down.


The funeral party

And me, I’m industrious in the kitchen
avoiding the humbug of humanity, happy
in the suds ignoring smug smirks from
the nons as the smokers go out
to pollute the fresh air,
as if I care.

With him it’s always business, ‘making the
most of every opportunity’ and this is surely
one, a chance to impress the rellies with the
necessary exaggeration in case they don’t
realize his importance,
as if it matters.

The old man maintains his discipline, putting
people at ease playing the game the only way
he knows - don’t show, don’t show. They’re
relieved he’s not a sobbing mess and leave
thinking there must be something
to this religious business,
after all.

I dutifully emerge but quickly run short of
small talk so escape back to the kitchen to
fill up a plate with conversation which I
can pass around and be complimented on,
as if it makes a difference.

Because Mum won’t be coming to visit
as she always did after a ‘good funeral’, giving
me the low down on who’s left who, telling me
the organist was too slow and the service
too long. She would have rated this one
highly. For her,
only the best.


My neighbour
for Jan


She’s been hospital cleaning for 33 years,
‘doing’ the ward rounds daily.

Patients talk to her; she has safe ears, is
distant from negative sentences.

She charts the conversations away from
illness. This is New Zealand,

they’re bound to have friends of friends
of friends in common.


She reckons she’d rather see vomit any day
than be in that hoicker ward.

It’s not their conversations but the other
things they divulge.

Early on she asked to be moved down to
surgical. She says,

when you’ve got a belly full of stitches,
there’s not a lot you want to bring up.


This morning she had a terminal clean.
After all those years she’s got a bit

of a nose for death, but this one surprised
her. Over the last few weeks

she’d learnt all about his family in between
floor moppings, toilet flushings, and

rubbish bag disposal. Today she had to
clean away all trace of him.


My neighbour’s in hospital. She had a funny
turn at work and they whipped her

downstairs and then upstairs before she’d time
to wash her mop.

This is not her ward. She’s not a patient person.
She wants to go home, now.


Her window seat is missing her. She warms it
in the winter afternoons

while neighbourhood watching. Most days I
take my hot drink over, catch up

on the day’s events, the comings and goings,
the ups and downs.


A 7am light shines from her kitchen window.
Last night she was discharged.

This morning she’s back on the ward. A bit
of a turn won’t keep her away.

Her floor will need a thorough going over, the
relief staff aren’t so particular.


Neighbourly for 25 years we’re now aging
towards gray.

We’ve moved on from toddler’n teenager
talk through the fence. Now,

our separate houses are conversation empty.
Today I suggested we go out

for a walk. Our getting up from the chair knee
creaks were a joint discussion.


3 - Publishing History

A blessing really published in the Otago University English Department ezine Deep South
A record of thanks published in the Australian ezine foam:e
After the rains published in Southern Ocean Review, NZ and again in Swings + roundabouts, poems on parenthood, a poetry anthology
Motorcycle Ballerina published in the Otago University Student Magazine Critic
Tall poppies published in the NZ ezine Blackmail Press
Grin and bear it published in Poetry New Zealand
Goodwill to all men published in the Otago Daily Times
My neighbour published in Takahē
Smokescreen published in the Otago University English Department ezine Deep South
The funeral party published in Takahē


4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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