Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yippee by James Norcliffe

When the podiatrists escaped we immediately set up roadblocks. But they were apparently wise to us and kept to the footpaths. Somewhat unfairly, too, they must have been wearing orthotics with rich crepes soles, which allowed them, well after dark, to ripple right past our defences in a distinctly crepuscular manner and make for the safety of the park.

In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of frustration.

There was no way, especially in the darkness, that we could retrieve the podiatrists from the park. The powerful sequoias hid and comforted even the bravest of them in a scent of turpentine, made sharp by the moonlight, whereas the more timid lay pressed into the gaultheria where they were wrapped about with wintergreen.

We could do nothing. We did joke that the iron railings around the park meant that the podiatrists had simply caged themselves in, but we were equally aware that the railings with their fearsome spikes kept us out just as effectively.

In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of irony.

All night the podiatrists hid there, out of sight, out of reach, but not out of hearing, and eventually safety overcame them and they grew cocky and footloose and realising our powerlessness began to cry Yippee! Yippee!

Thus the podiatrists taught us the meaning of scorn.

We could almost have tolerated this had it not been for the uncomfortable realisation that somehow in the night tinea had been set loose. We could feel it burning and insinuating itself all over our feet, between our toes. Burning and burning. Itching fearsomely.

And all the while the podiatrists, behind the iron rails and hidden in the dangling embrace of the redwoods, cried Yippee! Yippee!

As the burning sensation all but overcame us it seemed almost as though we could hear the tinea joining in the chorus: Yippee! Yippee! in tiny subsonic harmonies.

When dawn broke we were in a really bad way, jumping from foot to itchy foot. The light, perversely, had made the podiatrists even cockier, more sure of themselves. They broke free of the shaggy trunks, the perfumed ground cover and sported, gambolled. They flaunted their tubes of fungicide. They played touch rugby with them, flinging the crème of our desire from player to player, coming at times infuriatingly close to the railings. Every so often one would cry Yippee! as if unable to help it. Would leap into the air clapping his crepe soles.

In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of hate.

                                         Editor: Andrew M. Bell

I heard James Norcliffe read this prose poem at a book launch organised by 'Gap Filler' a few months ago. 'Gap Filler' is a wonderful group that sprung up like a colourful, sweet-scented flower from the rubble and dust of the Christchurch earthquakes. Its members organise a wide variety of artistic events on the vacant sites of demolished buildings in order to boost the morale of the Christchurch citizenry.

James was one of the guest readers and, as the audience sat on wooden school chairs on the now rubble-strewn former site of 'The Herbal Dispensary', he read this poem from an improvised stage with a backdrop of a display refrigerator of the type found in dairies, now unplugged and filled with books to exchange. The tragi-comic setting seemed to match the Monty Pythonish absurdity of James' poem perfectly.

I have heard James read a number of times and I always enjoy the subversive, mischievous humour that runs through many of his poems. James is an experienced reader of his and other's poetry so his dry and droll delivery enlivens and enhances the poem. I love the way the poem is layered with a series of "punchlines" that build to a perfect ending.

James Norcliffe has published six collections of poetry, most recently Villon in Millerton (AUP 2007). A new collection, Shadow Play, is currently a finalist in the Proverse International Writing Prize. He has also written a number of fantasy novels for children including The Loblolly Boy which won the junior fiction award at the NZ Post Children's Book Awards in 2010, its sequel The Loblolly and the Sorcerer (2011) and a new novel The Enchanted Flute (2012). 

James Norcliffe lives in Church Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, and teaches in the Foundation Studies Division of Lincoln University. “Yippee” was first published 2002 in Gargoyle 41 in the US and in Sport in NZ and collected in Along Blueskin Road (Canterbury University Press, 2004).

"Yippee" is published with permission.

The editor this week, Andrew M. Bell, lives in 'The City that Never Sleeps Soundly', Christchurch (NZ). He was chuffed when one of his short stories, 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll', was Highly Commended by judge, Owen Marshall, in the 2011 Katherine Mansfield Award. This helped to feed his delusion that literary fame and staggering riches must be just around the corner. His recent poetry collection is 'Clawed Rains', in which the title poem attempts the seemingly impossible task of marrying a litany of global disasters to the understated but sublime performance of actor, Claude Rains, in 'Casablanca'. He blogs here

Do read the Tuesday Poem contributions in the right sidebar - our up to 30 poets post poems by themselves and others they admire. Some gems in there...                                             


lillyanne said...

Heavens to betsy, what a great pleasure this is! I've come rather late to witty prose poems - Louis Jenkins is one I love - but this is a joy. Thanks so much for it.

Keith Westwater said...

Wonderful, wonderful – a delight which I will come back to. Thanks Andrew.

Mary McCallum said...

Simply wickedly delicious. Like eating cherries dipped in chocolate with a large glass of red wine. Thanks Andrew and James.

Nancy said...

James, we are going to bed with our socks on, just to be safe from ... the podiatrists.

Hey ho from Nancy & Mike in London!

Penelope said...

This poem touched my sole. Great humorous stuff.

Saradha Koirala said...

Wow! Such a wonderful poem! I had to look up 'crepuscular' which is a fantastic word and then later found Mary's post http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.co.nz/2010/01/crepuscular.html ! I love word serendipity.

Tim Jones said...

James' poem is just my cup of tea, Andrew - thanks for posting it!

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Hilarious! What wit! 'Flaunting tubes of fungicide' - really made me laugh. Thanks so much for sharing James' poetry, Andrew!!

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