You and your mother look alike.

Strangers think you are sisters and

each time your mother pretends


to be flattered but will

later say: Next week is the week

I stop dyeing my hair


yet each week you watch her

spread the thick, viscous stuff

over her scalp again.


She never does what she

says – when you were young

she would frequently forget


that you finished school at three

and would run in late

sweating visibly through her cream jacket


in a way that embarrassed you.

You always envied the girls

whose parents got there early


and waited in the car park reading but

as you grew older

you stopped resenting your mother’s distance


and started savouring it. Still,

since you’ve left home

you’ve craved her fish curry


and the solidity of her strong arms

around your waist,

especially when you


crossed the road

into the path of a turning car

and the driver stuck his head out


and screamed:

you stupid bloody child

into the cold Auckland air.


Your mother hasn’t spoken to you

since you left med school for Elam,

the detritus of your relationship




in monosyllabic texts

in blank emails

in taut messages on post-its


and when you come home in the summer

you find she’s grown a uterine fibroid

The largest I’ve ever seen


the doctor says, adding that it might rupture

at any moment. When he points to the ultrasound

neither you nor your mother can see a thing


but later she tells you she imagines it

swollen, bulging,

a grotesque flesh piñata waiting to burst.


In the waiting room she keeps her legs crossed

to hide the wild trembling of her knees,

clutching her copy of Madame Bovary


like a Bible. Afterwards she grows

fatter and more sarcastic and develops diabetes:

you look at her and it’s like seeing


something familiar yet distorted

like watching your own face blur

at the bottom of a swimming pool.


In an attempt to be cheery

you tell her that one day

she’ll be famous for making you.


Oh right, she says

kind of like Hiroshima is known

for the bomb.



Stairway to Heaven

In 13D Frank Street

past the broken Ponga fence

the Bourbon boxes, pizza cartons, and shoes

I imagine her sleeping

in her stained “Cutie” t-shirt –

blood clots in her brain,


eyes frozen in her skull,

eleven and a half kilograms

of slack flesh.

They say she died

of a surfeit of love

especially from her father


whose middle name was Aroha

and he certainly knew how to love:

he loved her with his teeth

with his enormous hands

he loved her as he spun her in a dryer

he loved her on the whirlwind of a rotary clothesline


or maybe it was all

a gross misunderstanding and

he was just throwing her up

the way normal fathers do

for fun. Only, when she sailed through the air,

a lovely, trusting child-ball,


he walked away

I wonder whether he ever felt

remorse or anything like it or

even if he saw her latent beauty

the way a lion might marvel

at the grace of a sprinting gazelle

before it leaps for the pulse in its neck


but when her animal whimpering morphed

into the earnestness of sobs

he turned on the radio

and let Led Zeppelin drown

her frenetic sounds of pain

she’s buying a


stairway to heaven

when she gets there she knows

when she gets there she knows…

in court they put her sister

on the stand and told her

(absurdly, absurdly)


not to be afraid. Trembling, she said:

He kicked her.


With his shoes.


On her head.


Then what?

She fell asleep…


I don’t know…

she twisted her mottled hands

I don’t know…


I wonder what he felt

that morning when

he sent her flying for the last time

and left her reeling on the ground

between the worms

her body writhing


in the overgrown grass. Maybe it was

a primal hunger encased in anger

or maybe there was no anger – he was just

desirous of something

not knowing exactly of what,

the way an addict’s vein throbs wildly


for the final dose.

I wonder whether he ever could smell the fear

that came off her skin

like salt mixed with blood mixed with urine

or if he was desensitized to it

the way you can’t really smell




Seven Things


that thing on your arm

(the one that looks like a small purple Australia)

it’s just a bruise

looks like a lesion, says the doctor

fingering your skin like a lover

I watch you taste the word:

lee-shun… leigh-tion?

l – e –  s –  i –  o –  n

so what do we do? asks Mum

the doctor’s mouth puckers uncertainly like

he wants to kiss her

he doesn’t kiss her

instead he says: let’s do a biopsy



I have a day-dream

as we wait for the results:

I imagine

your skin

under the bright glare of a microscope

the pathologist squints through the lens

it’s just a mole, he says

just a beauty spot

just a love bite



the doctor has colour-coded your treatment plan

the page drowns in all those psychedelic colours

we’re just trialling the drugs, he says

but when I look at the calendar

it is coloured all over

like a Rubik’s cube



your boyfriend brings fruit

you are sleeping so he

eats the entire bunch himself and then

falls asleep on the chair

juice dripping down his chin into his shirt

if you had felt well enough to kiss him

he would have tasted of grapes



you start sleeping a lot

sometimes when you are half-awake

the whites of your eyes


leaving just the black

and as I stare into them

I feel my organs come apart



in that deep onyx sea

I        come     apart



here is what I want:

I want to slip you out of your toxic skin

the way you unpeel a fruit

I want to suck the poison from your blood

(Edward Cullen style)

I want us to re-enter our mother

through that horrible hole in her heart

and there

sailing along currents of blood

past her lovely licorice tubes

I will wrap you in endometrium

and protect you



in the New Year

I bring messages from school

you groan: they’re a phony bunch

I offer to read the Marc Antony speech

from Julius Caesar

that you always had a strange preference for

but you say:

read me one of your poems instead

and so I read you this one



NOTE: ‘Hiroshima’ has previously been published in Starling, and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Seven Things’ have previously been published in Mayhem.