Miss Red in Japan

I make telephone calls
to my bones, eat evenings
full of 12–year–old
video credits.

Crows snap black
on power lines, shine
beaks inside my leaf window.

My childhood home
is coffee cans, a frying pan
on the living room floor.

Mum is a Moritz stick.
The stove is a piece of dried seaweed.

At night I cover mother
in a yellow plastic hard hat.
‘Goodnight dad,’ I call out.

The road is dancing.
In the dark I salute
packets of HOPE
cigarettes inside
roadside machines.

Johanna Aitchison was born in the Bay of Islands in 1972. She left to attend Otago University, where she completed a Bachelor of Laws and was admitted to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. After graduation she worked as a solicitor at a Dunedin law firm, leaving in 1997 to do an MA in Creative Writing via Bill Manhire’s pilot Master’s programme at Victoria University of Wellington.

‘Miss Red in Japan’ comes from her volume of poems, a long girl ago, which was published by Victoria University Press in 2007. Most recently, Johanna’s poetry has appeared in SportTurbine, and the political anthology Kaupapa: New Zealand Poets, World Issues.

Johanna is currently living in Wellington and is hard at play on her second volume of poems, wherever I am, where are you?

Aitchison comments: ‘ “Miss Red in Japan” was written to express the sharp intensity of experience I encountered living for three years in Hokkaido, Japan. The inhospitable winters of Hokkaido—lasting five months and requiring lashings of snow shovelling—were just the trick for keeping the 122 million people in Honshu and Kyushu from seeping north.

Miss Red in the poem created an imaginary family out of Moritz sticks, yellow plastic hard hats, frying pans. She found refuge from the bowing and the fierce buzz of staring eyes in the English films she rented from the local video store. She leached joy from the smallest of things—roadside vending machines filled with HOPE, LARK, Lucky Strike cigarettes, snow flying in sideways, and the crows, crows everywhere.’

Poem source details >



New Zealand Electronic Text Centre: online work
Victoria University Press author page