The Pinkish Wine
from Hands On: A Handbook for Parents
Grandma was sick as a dog. Ruby said, I’ll go.
A supermarket bag ticked with
six cakes. You think, said Mum,
I’d let my only daughter walk those woods alone?
A spare daughter
might have fared
differently if she’d
existed. Mum put in a bottle of Chablis no Rosé on second
Grandma’s afternoon tea.
Sure enough on the path, a wolf.
Sick too, as it happened. Sick as a human.
A morsel, he whined, a drink, not too much to ask,
is it? Mum
scared him off with her famous fireplace snarl, white dust
on her tongue, evidence of something
lacking. A letter.
The wolf slunk off with his tail between
a broom, a boy’s
pocket-knifed toi toi.
Mum called after him, Don’t think you’ve got the monopoly on
warm-blooded and furry!
To Ruby: I can play the female-defending-young
card quite well. Mum and Ruby
continued on their way unhindered by anything apart from
Ruby’s MP3 player. The Ramones
on a leash, a tape-loop
the brain as an avenue
and light slatting in through the young pine trees
which made you think of all the previous occasions of sunlight.
Good thing I came along, said Mum. Considering
history. Ruby oblivious. Mum was
a film star with music tapping her on the shoulder
if only she could hear it.
It got annoying after a while
for Ruby (and for us).
Insects under Mum and Ruby’s feet flew up from the forest floor.
This is Your Life, a billion
episodes. Then fell gently
to biting. There were fantails following like paparazzi
that ate the insects that swallowed
the blood. Ruby and Mum walked on towards Grandma’s house
swatting the things and the things
on the soles of their shoes.
The path. The path!
At Grandma’s Grandma looked a terrible colour.
the house cluttered like a palette, her ornaments,
her collection of fine dusts.
How are you anyway? out the side of her mouth like smoking.
A bad habit, all these years.
Never you mind how I am, said Grandma. I just am.
Nothing you can do about it.
Well that’s a bit rich considering, said Mum,
the visit, the cakes, their faces (all the round things).
And the wine. Let’s drink to the wine.
Well alright I’ll drink to that.
And they drank
except Ruby who had two cakes, and
when Grandma asked her to go and get the whisky she had
a walk to the cabinet to get the whisky.
Presently Grandma said,
The prime minister is coming this afternoon. Helen.
Mum clicked her tongue over and over, a twig
in bike spokes.
Jesus (in fact talking to Ruby)
delusions of grandeur again! Grandma was
wounded. I didn’t say I was the prime minister.
Did I Ruby?
No, said Ruby.
She’ll be here at three o’clock, said Grandma.
Mum looked sly. I thought you said you were sick.
I was but now I’m better.
Jesus, we come all this way!
Ruby said, Mum, don’t!
No really. All the way through the woods.
It’s not woods, Mum.
Fine fine, pines. Pines.
Can I help it if your grandmother won’t sell her house
to the Christmas tree company? Can I
help it if the closer it gets to December the taller the trees are
Can I help you? said Grandma.
the taller the trees the crazier the people
sleeping under them.
Mind you who
can talk? Look. Bulbous eyes, enlarged nose, slavering teeth.
It’s only the wine, said Ruby.
Wine. It sure is. Years of wine.
Thank you. I’ll thank you to keep out of this.
Leave then! cried Grandma. Leave and don’t ever come back.
Fine with me. Don’t meet the prime minister.
Ruby, we’re going. We’re leaving and we’re never
coming back. We’re leaving this
Earphone buds mating in midair, the new indigestible
Back through the woods. Mum on alert: watch out for
the wolf won’t you.
Ruby to Mum: Mum, it’s not woods and it’s not wolf,
this is the Pacific. It’s bush and pedophiles.
Oh I know, don’t think I don’t read The Herald.
the white album
an anthology, the canon
Even more reason. I have
even more reason.
About this afternoon, I’m sorry it was all so something
but you know your grandmother
what I was going to say, so damaging
They talked about it and they talked about it. At least we
can talk about damage, utter the word
damage. At least you’re safe.
A high level of safety. I was never this safe. A miracle
I’m here to tell the tale.
Anne Kennedy has published five books of fiction and poetry. She has won several awards, including the 2004 Montana New Zealand Poetry Award. Her most recent book is the narrative sequence, The Time of the Giants (Auckland University Press, 2005). She has worked as a screenwriter and editor, and currently teaches writing at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa.
Kennedy comments: ‘ “The Pinkish Wine” is one of a sequence of retold fairytales. In writing these poems I returned to a theme I’d written about before, and which still intrigues me – contemporary parental over-involvement. It’s funny, and seems to be necessary these days. I also set off trudging along a path after Anne Sexton, whose re-imagined fairytales flit lightly ahead of me.’
New Zealand Book Council writer file
Auckland University Press author profile
Best New Zealand Poems 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 (co-editor)