Why She Quit Queen at Night

cos anywhere’s safer than sleepin shallow on queen street in
deep night never deep enuf tho to hide her from dem young
ones wit their shark skin suits and radar brows made for
catchin jumpy heart-beats and hers would let out an irregular
vibration like a wounded echo in a sinkhole leadin em direct
to her & lee (they been together 2 years since she were kickt
outta home out west and she aint never been back) and it’d
take jus one of dem young ones to land her one in the jaw
smash her teeth in top to bottom leavin a hole too big to
whistle thru too small to cry over but even then she still is
pretty as a petal for an old gal in her twenties lee says and
she’d laugh and show him her pretty bloody gums and go wit
a shrug n short memory to the hospital where they’d fix her
up proper cos they already knows her from last time the day
she lay dazed on the concrete next to lee wit her ear to the
pavement knowin she could hear the water of the waihorotiu
flowin to swellin under the sewer below in a direction only
she could calculate wit her inbuilt compass her north star
hearin it movin not stoppin magnetic all the way and as
long as it never stood still never stopped stagnant she knew
it would get to where it were goin cos she could hear it go
torrential and it sounded alive           and she understood that

Photo by Kazma Yamasaki

ko tararua tōna maunga; ko muaūpoko rātou ko savai'i ko ngāti hāmoa ko ngāti pākehā ōna iwi; ko kazma rāua ko yuga āna tamariki tāne; ko tāmaki makaurau tōna tūrangawaewae.

Carin Smeaton lives in Auckland with her twin sons, Kazma and Yuga. ‘Why She Quit Queen at Night’ is from her first book, Tales of the Waihorotiu, published in 2017 by Titus Books. It first appeared in Landfall 231. Her poetry and prose has also been published in BriefCordite Poetry ReviewAtlanta ReviewTurbine | KapohauThe SpinoffNZ Poetry ShelfManifesto Aotearoa, and Phantom Billstickers Cafe Reader.

Carin comments: ‘The Waihorotiu is a stream running beneath Auckland’s main street, Queen Street. It was bricked up, shut away from the daylight, in the 19th century. The waterways under Tāmaki Makaurau aren’t generally too well-known, not even to Aucklanders. Nonetheless, if you stop and listen carefully on a rainy day on Queen, you’ll hear the Waihorotiu alive and kicking under your feet. I have even heard talk of big silver fish swimming their way up into inner city parks, freaking the developers, surprising the gardeners who were only expecting a zucchini or two. But that’s another story. . . . I wrote “Why She Quit Queen at Night” for Taylor. This is Taylor’s story.’

Poem source details >


Tales of the Waihorotiu at Titus Books
Tales of the Waihorotiu reviewed on NZ Poetry Shelf