Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ngawhatu by Maggie Rainey-Smith

On the Richmond bus to Nelson passing Polstead Road
you only had to say it, and everyone knew, unspoken
we almost dared not look, it stirred such potent thoughts
caused laughter, mocking, and a deeply seated superstition
innuendo out the window, the road that leads to there
To where? You ask?  But we all knew, we knew for sure

that’s where the loonies go and you’ll go there for sure
we’d tell each other, laughing, pointing, up that road
if you’re not careful, shit a brick, you’ll end up there
What’s up there?  But no one speaks, it’s all unspoken
get off the grass and up your arse with superstition
hoodackie, thingummybob, bite your bum thoughts

no cock crowed thrice as I denied , but in my thoughts
were you and him but tightly kept, ashamed for sure
of knowing what was up that road, alas not superstition
the halfway mark en route, bus stop Polstead Road
get off the grass, half pie inside I laughed, my shame unspoken
the loony bin we shouted up the boohai pointing there.

I daren’t admit in public on the bus that I’d been there
in Aunty’s Morris Minor up that road;  my thoughts
I kept inside, our weekend visits left unspoken
the loony bin they shouted but none of them so sure
not the way that I was, not exactly what was up that road
yes  I knew just how to thwart suspicion, superstition

Scottish names they gave the villas, avoiding superstition
Stirling at the top was called the lock-up, dangerous to be there
but more benign was Kinross halfway up a landscaped road
among ornamental conifers, the bowling lawn, some say their thoughts
still haunt the valley, patients weaving baskets, no one’s sure
just what they felt besides the shock of ECT, most of it unspoken

the loony bin, we shouted, yet kept the worst unspoken
for if we named or claimed this thing we fed our superstition
the potential that was lurking at this intersection meant for sure
a powerful sense of self protection; we were never going there
up Polstead Road, we mocked and scoffed … but in my thoughts
I knew the way by heart, each bend, and every valley of that road

nga’s not superstitious and whatu, is possibly an eye, or hailstone
(yes, I get that for sure) yet up that road my thoughts still go when
ngawhatu meant loony and both of you … but now it’s not unspoken.

© Maggie Rainey-Smith
Featured on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.

Editor: Jennifer Compton

I am more or less just back in Australia from an excellent trip to Wellington to take in the Poetry Conference and Litcrawl. Heavens, what a weekend. Now Maggie is someone I know, I always seem to bump into her when I am in town, she's quite a feature of my visits, so I wasn't a bit surprised to be rubbing shoulders with her. And then she stood up at the conference and hit us with this poem. What a stunner. I was very much taken with it. I loved the way Maggie used the old school vernacular, and the old school mindset. And of course, the poem meant just that little bit more to me because my husband's mother was the deputy matron of Ngawhatu for quite a long time. My husband spent his school holidays in her cottage on the grounds. (I remember thinking when I met him that we might have a chance because he was so cool about being around mad people.) Thanks Maggie, for this excellent piece of work, and for the dredging up of something that must be almost forgotten. AND I am thinking of you tonight, as your new book, Daughters Of Messene (Mākaro Press), is being launched in Wellington. More power to your writing elbow! 

Maggie Rainey-Smith is a novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist and book reviewer. She approaches her subject matter with fresh insight, extending the genre of women’s fiction in particular. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature as well as several other writing-based qualifications. Her first novel About Turns is set in Wellington and explores issues of class and relationships. Her second novel Turbulence is also published by Random House. Her third novel, Daughters of Messene, is published by Mākaro Press.

Maggie's blog -

Today's editor, Jennifer Compton, lives in Melbourne. Her poem, 'Now You Shall Know', won the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2013, and the collection of the same name was published this year in Australia, while her verse novella, Mr Clean and The Junkie  was published in New Zealand as part of the Hoopla series 2015 (Mākaro Press). 

In addition to today's feature be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by the other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting. 


Maggie Rainey-Smith said...

Thank you for this honour, Jen.

Life In Poems said...

Now I'll have another blog to read every Tuesday. Haiku

Helen Lowe said...

An intriguing poem, with so much implied but not - quite - revealed.