untitled poem sequence
If we work backwards from the rape she has thirteen thousand five hundred and fourteen steps to take. But the rape is not the end so let’s start from now.
She can smell something nice as she gets out of the car. A scent somewhere between a flower smell and a food smell. The source is not clear. It’s not the dash of orange flowers which are nice to suck, not the yellow poison berries which broke up one of her mother’s children’s parties. Not the dead branches bunched up by the garage, or flax, the spill of gravel dotted with dog poo and unknown red berries leading to the stairs. What then? She asks her flatmate, who can also smell it, and neither of them know.
You see how life goes on?
It’s a stop on route to the beach. She follows him off the main road thinking What if he? Nah...
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me, twice on the pipe if the answer is no.
How hard he is. Arms like sticks, fingers like pegs, jabbing in and wrenching her breasts. She fends but it’s like trying to hit a baseball thrown by Babe Ruth. His fingers are beak shaped, she feels them rather than sees them. One of his nails splits her cuticle.
For a moment she sees it. Her face bloody and shattered with the helmet still on.
What a drag I haven’t been working out. My body wrapped around my bones like marzipan.
Let’s pause here and anchor ourselves.
Time opens for her. She screams. Aware of her feet pressing down. There’s a need to throw her head back, open her throat so the scream can break out, glistening, into the sky.
There is blood in her scream, and intestines, and her desire to see his. Vomit, laugh, thumbs in eyes, gouge his jelly out, do bad things, anything. She emerges from the scream and attacks.
When she can see again she sees he has motored away and is watching her from a yellow path near one of the villas she’d thought meant she was safe. Because people in it would come if she screamed. A flicker from the corner of her eye says there’s a motorway nearby.
It’s all just chemistry when you think about it and cosmology, mankind careening through space unable to control their vessel. We think we know. We know monkeys use bones as tools, as weapons. Man thinks he’s holding a joystick, playing pilot, saving a crashing plane.
Nothing to do with her. She is pure like lava. It is only because of her past she can be like this. This time she gets away from him, but with her life, so there is more to come.
After the escape on the motorway, after he has sped after her and laid his hands on her breasts again as he passes her, laughing. After how much she wants to kill him. You cunt she screams at his mirth-shaking back. He stops ahead at a red light, hunched over the handlebars with elbows poking up like funky chicken wings. She turns onto a dirt road to avoid lining up behind him. Then she’s lost. And stops in a cafe to ask where to go. A waiter casts her a languid look and points out directions. How polite he is not to attack me she thinks. He could, you know.
She leaves with the attacker riding at her shoulder, in her blind spot.
Determined to be fine, she parties hard that night. A British guy coaxes her into the sea naked and says in the warm black water - I’m sorry that happened. Perhaps it was because you’re so beautiful, he couldn’t control himself. No. she says. Don’t blame my face. Later, he disagrees when she says she’d have shot him if she’d had a gun. Make his face swallow itself, a close-up of a drop of water hitting a larger body of water, like in nature documentaries.
If I had a pounamu mere I would’ve planted it in his throat
If I had a patu made of bone I would’ve opened his neck to the spine
If I had a knife I would’ve sheathed it in his eye
If I had a rock I would’ve bludgeoned his face shapeless
No, you wouldn’t have he says. Yes I would she says. And knows it to be true. As true as there being clouds above, although it’s night so they can’t be seen.
It’s a good idea to have sex with the British guy and prove she’s not traumatised. He doesn’t want to use a condom. How lucky I am, she thinks, to put this wannabe rapist behind me.
I won, she thinks as the British guy turns her over. I won.
I like the smell of healing wounds. Before I was an alcoholic I was a tomboy. My knees were always glazed with grazes, the gel that forms before the scab. I would examine it. Coming to understand that skin always comes back. Even the time I slashed open my thumb from inside knuckle to tip catching a bowl of raw fish that fell from the fridge (such quick reflexes). At ACC a young blonde doctor strapped rubber bands around the base, injected painkiller and ripped it back open to look for glass. There are scars from the injections 24 years later. I didn’t realise he didn’t know what he was doing until the end when he was trying to sew it back up. The thumb guts wouldn’t fit back in. I had to lie down and he said, I told you so. I’d been watching because I wanted to be a doctor, but I stopped wanting to that day. My thumb healed with an open nerve I’d finger when nervous. Before the open nerve it was bandaged for weeks. It smelt sweet and toey. Kind-of like genitals after good sex. I met with an old friend the other week. He smelt like the old guys at the resthome my Dad managed. I knew something was very wrong from the smell of him but I left early rather than say that. It didn’t sound very diagnostic. Later he sent me a story where I was a helpless sexual object. Later he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
My kind is not kind to your kind, beast, tho I see you made perfect
in God’s image
The strength of you and the spring of you
your spongy nuzzle nose and pointed ears
your muscled chest and wide forehead, furred whorls which face the sun
your crimps and fluff and hoofed precision
your glistening globes of sweep lashed eyes
The forcefield of you, standing across from me, in a slaughter truck, facing the slats.
I’m on the road outside. Here to bear witness.
I see your eyes, white-ringed. You see me, swallowing.
The truck turns down the drive where you’ll be unmade.
They will cut your fur from your back
your nose from your face
your hoof from your leg
your haunch from your hip
bone from your socket
flesh from your bone
Mooo baaa oink
We have a moment here, outside, and then you’re driven by
sniffing the sky
The overnight rain stopped before I wake up and go walking. A blue ball is sitting in wet grass; kids live around here. It matches your eyes and the dress I wanted to wear tonight but I need to buy it first.
Jasmine is choking out the natives in the creek under the bridge down the street, where we used to hangout and look at the naked lady painted on the tree trunk, which also looked like a devil head on some angles. Her outstretched arms, horns, and her crotch a pointy chin. She’s gone now, and the trunk has split in two, although the tree is still alive. Half of the trunk has sent out thin branches that quiver like whips in the morning chill.
Everyone I love has died in one way or another but it’s spring. I died too, to make way for something new, and we can call it spring. Blossoms swimming in the veins of trees all winter are emerging. My neck still needs a scarf, but the most tender petals are out, white and pink like little girls' faces. In the kōwhai tree, whose branches are the colour of my face, tūī are getting delirious.
I meet an old lady in the Coffee Project getting my almond flat white. She licks her keeper cup and talks about how the Islanders moved into Waterview after the old people who used to live there died off. She says, Islanders, with narrowed eyes and a pause.
Anyway, she smiles and licks. Spittle glints in the air; It’s changed again, now it’s young families, with children.
I know it’s inappropriate to slide down the fireman’s pole at a kid’s park in a floaty floral skirt because I’m 41. My brother’s girlfriend watches. When did you last see your niece? She asks. When my brother pulled up beside me just now with her screaming for Mum in the back. He asked me for help. So I got in the car. It didn’t help. He let her beat his chest with her small fists and collapse on it. She sounded like the noise in my head. His stress is like a red hot poker, which also grow around the neighbourhood. Who knows what an Auntie is supposed to do. After a certain level of trauma, aren’t familial obligations moot, even on Christmas. I’d been walking to forget about a man. On Christmas I found out he wasn’t really there, by Boxing Day the last strands of emotional connection were going soft inside another woman. Your sickness on Christmas Day must have been psychosomatic, my therapist says. How did you get through the day?
I don’t cut but I like the red marks left after my cat scratches me
I don’t cut but I like going to the dentist and opening my mouth, the shudders of the drill
I don’t cut but I shadow dogs walking near ducks at the park in case they attack and I
have to jump in
I don’t cut but I jump in fights in town
I saved a man’s life doing this which embarrassed him
I don’t cut and I don’t sleep with cisgender heteronormative men. I know both behaviours
spring from a self-destructive urge which springs from a self-hatred feeling, which
springs from a weakened identity, which springs from undermining narratives, which
springs from mainstream endorsement of structural inequalities
If I sleep with a cisgender heteronormative man I feel my power and identity slipping
Blood is a good metaphor for life force, cutting is slow suicide perhaps, like addiction
Euthanasia is illegal but cutting is legal and suicide or addiction
It’s legal to cut but I don’t do it
I don’t cut but I have punched a ranch slider. It was a lucky punch and I only have three
thin scars on my inner forearm that makes it look like I cut
I heard of a dude who was very drunk when he punched a window, his arm went sloppy
as he withdrew. He slit his wrist on the cut glass and bled out
I was drunk, also I was lucky, also it was an excellent punch
Women do many things far better than they’ll ever get credit for, like punch a ranch slider
and not die
People look at me weirdly when I tell this story because it sounds like I’m proud of it
I am proud of it
I don’t cut, I don’t drink, I don’t worship God, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat animals and I’m
good at punching ranch sliders
My friend screamed at me because her dog was sitting outside, its face close to the place I
punched. The dog was fine
I don’t drunk, I mean cut
I keep changing the sheets but the bed looks the same. My cat blinks. We’re so close especially in the mornings before the alarm. If I keep my eyes closed I feel arms wrapped around me.
My ex-husband should’ve known. He thought it was hilarious when he found a perfectly rotten apple sitting on my dresser. I liked that apple brown like that as if made of wood, not apple, and I made it so.
The food waste bin is beautiful if left un-emptied three days too long in summer. Fungus forests and mould terrains. It smells fermented, like a lover. I can’t stop looking at it.
Is this how God feels?
No one said it was wrong.
It was wrong for people to poke their noses in, it was wrong for me to feel sorry for myself.
There goes the tūī , look how heavy it is.
I remember lying in my bed, having panic attacks, I didn’t know what they were then. Just that
my heart was making my T-shirt bounce as if it’d been taken out of my chest and was laying on
top of it. And my breathing was like a ship in big waves, with a tiny captain, gripping the wheel,
up and down and up.
I learned to control my breathing.
Slow it right down, almost to stop.
When my dad was dying we watched a video of a heart in a glass box, it had been taken out,
still beating, as part of an operation to fix it. It was jumping at the walls.
Dad said I saw an operation like that when I was training to be a nurse.
I looked at him, then back at the heart.
He saw that I was looking at it with recognition.
An understanding passed between us. Or, I like to think so.
Simone Kaho is a Tongan / Pākehā poet who writes discontinuous narratives in poetry. She is 42, Capricorn, childfree and has a grey Burmese, called Louie. Simone has a Masters from Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She writes for E-Tangata, a Māori and Pasifika online magazine, and directed their web series, ‘Conversations’. Her first book, Lucky Punch was published by Anahera Press in 2016, the second will hopefully arrive in 2021.
Photographer credit: Rachael Naomi