Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Early Growth by Rachel O'Neill

At her party the boy runs best with the hard-boiled egg. During
the obstacle course she meets him at the bird feeder on top of
which raisins are scattered. ‘I’m a bird,’ she nibbles and the boy
really does bob and nod. Later he says, ‘we’re twins, and I can
telepathically read the thoughts in your head,’ at which point she
makes a dent in his leg. It’s spring. Sometimes she hears an animal
cry as it comes out of its tent, or what’s it called? The uterus. It’s
taken from its mother and put on the teat. After the birthday cake
the kids run around, they bleat, skitter and find their feet. They
start to count the exposed growth rings on a tree stump, loops as
fine as hairs. One father keeps calling these the inseparable years.

Poem published with permission.
Editor: Sarah Jane Barnett 

Rachel O'Neill
Photo Credit: Kim Lesch
Rachel O’Neill is a writer, visual artist and editor based in Paekākāriki on the Kapiti Coast. Her writing has appeared in a range of publications, including Best New Zealand Poems 2011, Paper Radio, the inaugural The Long and the Short of It competition book published by Sport and Unity Books, and issues of Turbine, JAAM, and Brief. She completed a conjoint degree in English and Sculpture at the University of Auckland (2005) and a Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern letters (2008). Her debut collection, One Human in Height, will be released by Hue & Cry Press this year. O'Neill also blogs at Little Disturbances.

"Early Growth" was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2011. Of the poem, O’Neill said: ‘If my memory is correct, children's birthday parties in 1980s rural New Zealand were the kind of epic affairs that disturbed the myth that the country is not very populated. It seemed like every man, woman and child came to some of my parties. My mother put eggs on spoons and we ran as fast as we could without dropping them. There was also an unusual game that involved completing an obstacle course involving giant outdoor furniture.

In the poem there is an entanglement of child and adult point of view. It mirrors the way we humans can easily be confused by certain transitions, say from a sense of new life to experiencing more complex feelings around what new life might mean.’

What made me want to share this poem was my personal response. My son turned two in July, and the first two years of his life seem to have happened in seconds. I know; the sentiment's cliche! Still, the image of the "rings on a tree stump," which the father then calls "these the inseparable years," perfectly evokes the way childhood tumbles away. While this reading is somewhat different to the interpretation given by O'Neill, I think it speaks to, as she states, the "complex feelings" that life creates.

This week's editor Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer and reviewer who lives in Wellington. Her first collection of poems, A Man Runs into a Woman, was published by Hue & Cry Press in 2012, and has been shortlisted for best poetry collection of the year in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards. She blogs at theredroom.org

When you've read Early Growth, do try some of the other Tuesday Poems out there. Check out the sidebar. 


Helen Lowe said...

Wonderful poem and commentary - thank you, Sarah and Rachel

Jennifer Compton said...

great stuff - ta

Siobhan Harvey said...

Love this poem, beautifully written; thanks for showcasing this Sarah, kindest Siobhan

Anonymous said...

Thanks, everyone!

Unknown said...

wow awesome poem, love it its a great piece of work!

Kitty Chrystal said...

I love this poem :)

Helen McKinlay said...

I am enjoying reading and rereading this poem. Its immediacy and yet the way it switches from child to adult child is very natural and effective. After all that child is still within us. Good luck with the new book Rachel and thanks for choosing this poem Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments all, and thanks Sarah and Tuesday Poem for sharing 'Early Growth'.

Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm looking forward to Rachel's book.