Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cracked by Johanna Emeney

In this drought
a crack has worked its way
up or down our lounge wall -

a crinkle
to a hairline
to a mad jaw of a thing.

The builder talks of settling,
waiting for a change in the weather,
giving it a few days,

and you are fine
with putting panic on hold
for a rainy day,

while I'm on a fault line,
looking up past the picture
you have hung to hide it,

pulling out the settee
to see how much worse
it is tonight,

until the cross-hatch
of buckled tape
and seamed board

look too much
like a mistake
or a torn page.

When wrinkles
spread across ceilings
and doors swell shut

so I have to tug and sweat
to get out,
I expect you to be there

on the other side.

First published in Trout (17).
Reprinted here with the kind permission of the poet.

Editor: Elizabeth Welsh.

I discovered Johanna's poem 'Cracked' in Trout 17, the Home Spaces issue published in 2012. It is the opening poem of this superb issue and it drew me in and kept me coming back to it over the last couple of months (it niggled!) - the seemingly calm domestic scene of a lounge with a growing crack traversing and growing slowly up/down the wall. There's something about the casual conversational tone between the 'I' and 'you', the slight edge of sharpness, of hysteria that blooms, the scrabbling behind furniture and the masking with paintings to allay or confirm fears. It's paced so deftly, so carefully. The startling image of the crack and the differing reactions to it pulse quietly and build to the final image of the 'I' tugging and sweating at a swollen, unflinching door. Sometimes there are final lines that I genuinely wish I had written, and Johanna's poem is a perfect instance of that, bringing the poem to a whole new level of complexity and depth and love: 'I expect you to be there on the other side'.

When I chatted to Johanna about sharing her poem, she very generously offered an autobiographical glimpse into 'Cracked': 'Cracked is, in many ways, a love poem. Its occasion was the large cracks that started appearing in our house because of the mercurial weather of Auckland over the past couple of years, coupled with the poor clay soil of rural Coatesville, where we live. One crack in particular appeared directly above the sofa on which my husband and I sit. The fissure got larger and larger over a period of months. It was positioned directly between us when we sat in our habitual places, and became the cause of much hilarity and ironic joking about portents and omens. Our reactions to the house's movement were opposite, and reflective of our personalities: I panicked and brooded. My husband was calm and unfazed. The poem explores these attitudes (and, of course, amplifies them!)'.

Johanna Emeney is a New Zealand poet and teacher. She spent fourteen years in England, during which she attended Cambridge University and taught English Literature at public and private schools. In 2006, she returned to Auckland with her husband, David. Jo is currently studying towards her PhD at Massey University, where she also tutors on the Level One Creative Writing course. In addition, she enjoys working with her friend Rosalind Ali at the Michael King Writers' Centre, delivering the Young Writers' Programme to talent senior school students, and the New Kiwi Voices workshops for migrant youth, supported by Auckland Council. 'Cracked' comes from her book Apple & Tree, published by Cape Catley in 2011.

This week's editor, Elizabeth Welsh, is a poet and academic editor. Originally from Auckland, she has made London her home for the past three years. She runs the online poetry magazine The Typewriter and is currently working on her first poetry collection. She blogs about all manner of literary, travelling and everyday bits & bobs at small marks.

Do take a short morning tea break to check out all the other poets and poems along the sidebar from the rest of the talented Tuesday Poem community.


Springtimecanbeanytime said...

beautiful...loved the metaphor!

Helen Lowe said...

This "could" have been a Christchurch earthquake poem, but I'm kind of glad it isn't. :) Regardless, I really like it, so thanks Johanna and Elizabeth!

Helen McKinlay said...

Yes I really enjoyed it too. It's got so much possibility for a dire ending. Very visual that idea of spreading cracks and the ending is great...the idea of her having to tug and sweat to get out but expecting the calm one to be there waiting...says it all. Thanks Elizabeth and Johanna.

Elizabeth said...

Isn't it wonderful? The building, increasing unease, both in terms of the polar opposite emotions and the crack itself. I really appreciate how personal and 'felt' it is; and the yearning, the expectation embodied in the final line. Thanks all, for your comments - I know Johanna will really appreciate reading them! :)