Scrape margarine across eight slices
of white bread, raspberry jam and Nutella
and Marmite and jam again. Eight sandwiches—
two each. Cut and wrap. It’s not enough.
Add four bananas that will come home bruised
and blackened mid-afternoon. Seal in four
plastic lunch-boxes. It’s not enough. A thump
of backpacks and a wrenching of zips,
this daughter smiling and this daughter
sullen, and these two in a stumbling panic—
Don’t slam the door, don’t leave me here
beside myself—these two, my hatchlings,
my little ones, are gone, fallen through
that bright rectangle to where the world
waits with its claws and teeth, its every kind
of sharp and sudden thing . . .
I would halt traffic to let you pass,
I would snarl and swipe at the dogs
that bound from driveways, I would
smooth and make safe and contain but all
I am is here, I am always here—I wipe away
the slopped cereal, inhale the sour smell
of your rooms as I make your beds,
the sheets in which the grains of your hot,
dry bodies threshed all night already cooling.
Tim Upperton’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Agni (US), Bravado, Dreamcatcher (UK), Landfall, the New Zealand Listener, North & South, Sport, Takahe and Turbine. He is a former poetry editor for Bravado, and judged its International Poetry Competition in 2008. He has won first prizes in the Listener’s National Poetry Day competition, Takahe magazine’s poetry competition, and the Northland and Manawatu Short Story competitions. His first poetry collection, A House on Fire, will be published by Steele Roberts in July 2009.
Tim Upperton comments: ‘In 2004, I more or less left public life. After completing an M.A. in English in the ’80s, I trained as a librarian, and for some years I was Libraries Manager and then Customer Services Manager for Whangarei District Council. When my wife was offered a paid position to do a Ph.D. at Massey University, we switched roles: I looked after our four kids and cobbled together a part-time job teaching creative writing, while she worked fulltime. I found and continue to find my role rewarding but difficult—I don’t think I do it particularly well. Mornings in our household are mayhem and murder, yet I regard the world outside our front door with increasing anxiety. Love, self-doubt and anxiety—these are the emotions that underlie “Four bananas”.’