Electric current through my mother’s brain. It was common in those days—
twin electrodes, a rubber gag so the patient could bite down. All manner
of troubles burned away.
Dark currents of transformation. Mum spent weeks in hospital. Sometimes
we went to visit. Mum smiled. When will you come home, Mum—
when will they let you come home?
In those days, electric fences made good neighbours. The land
did not speak unless spoken to. Water was caught behind stop banks,
confined to proper channels.
We drove to the beach, trailing behind stock trucks till they turned to the slaughter:
Mataura, Makarewa. Mum sat in the car and ate ice-cream. We dug ditches
till the cows came home.
Mustn’t complain, mustn’t grumble. She never quite recovered. Her balance
was affected. On a day of cloud and flood, I drove down to the waiting church,
the waiting crematorium.
Bite down on this. Bite down. Mother is waking, shaking free
from restraints too weak to hold her. Nurse, the tranquilliser, please.
Bite down, then smile and smile and smile.
Tim Jones lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. He was awarded the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship in 2022. His recent books include the poetry collection New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016) and climate fiction novella Where We Land (Cuba Press, 2019). His novel Emergency Weather is due to be published by Cuba Press in 2023.
Tim comments: 'I was born in Lincolnshire, England, but my parents and I emigrated to Aotearoa when I was two. The separation from family did not help Mum's depression. After a few years in Christchurch and Haast, we moved to Southland: like Lincolnshire, the plains of Murihiku slope imperceptibly down to the sea.
The rural economy then was based on wool and frozen meat—the big dairy takeover was a couple of decades into the future. So often, in our little Fiat, we trailed behind trucks crammed full of panicked sheep, on their way to be slaughtered at the freezing works in Mataura or Makarewa: land to knife, knife to ship, then all the way back to England, to the place my parents capitalised as Home.