issue 5

october 2017

issue 5 - october 2017

-ve space - D.A. Taylor

Suppose you take this poem,
turn it on its side.
A silhouette emerges
from the skyline of its breaks,
its stanzas 
city blocks

where abandoned syllables,
wool-capped, distended,
lean a bicycle 
drunk with jetsam
against the serif,
utter something cleft-palate, hungry
for change or a cup of coffee
to wrap their nicotine fingers around
and wait out the dark.

You rent a room on the Lower East Side 
with a window at which
you can hesitate, calculate the distance
between gutters, labour over
nineteen years of writing 
as level and steady in depth

as the ocean, bar 
a few cerulean curls to break
the surface,
the depths of the left-hand
justification littered 
with sunken apostrophe
and her fingertips,

the handprint graffiti of our ancestors
who understood the grammar
of mortality
and carved the ochre walls 
with moonmilk and
I was here.

You’d build a city if only 
she’d wander the spaces inbetween,
come home before dawn with
fingers bruised from
dog-earing corners
where leaves and stubs collect:

the stanzas, as in standing, or stopping place;
or a stare, from steh, with an H like
Muhummad. Maybe that was his name; maybe
the brush of cloth, the soil shifting beneath
his feet gave name to the breaks and rooms of one’s own.

So you rise, and the earth shifts 
in the morning light,
like a lover, 
or the hush of asphalt beneath our feet.

Dahlias (dialtone wake) - D.A. Taylor

I go back to the eggshell wallpaper,
the matching bluebell prints, a wedding photo,
her face buried in dad’s collarbone as if
to fill his heart through the hollow of his clavicle.

The air is still as fireplace ash. No one wants 
to wake the baby.

We have our backs to the windows, November
draining the colour from the deck and the lawn, 
soft tarmac and popsicle stick,
a box of beer halfburied in sand, 
the sunpink of some other family’s cheeks,
a high tide.

It was dark by the time 
we made it to the corner for c-sections 
car crashes and gone-too-soons. In
the dialtone wake of the ward the family arrived 
by degrees; there no rush.

I want to go back 
and take down the boxes of brand news and hand-knits, 
just to unwrap their plastic cocoons and
hold them up between my sister and the sunlight;

before 
that four-thirty thursday voice,
tight and sober down the copper lines,
asked for mum over 
the rattle and drum of the Ward,
gave thanks, and hung up.

Dud - D.A. Taylor

We are in the Te Urewera ranges. He has given me a gun.

Mum thinks it would be good for me to spend more time with Dad, so we are hunting.

There are rules in the bush, because deer are stupid but not stupid, and because people make mistakes. The gun has to stay pointing upwards, because if you fall the barrel might jam with dirt or you might bend it. You can’t point a gun at something unless you’re prepared to shoot. Safety on. Safety off. Twigs don’t break on their own; you have to move quietly, slowly, in places where the ground is soft but not squelchy, and make no sound, like a deer.

Dad knows where to step, so try to trace his steps across the Novemberdry leaflitter. He hears me coming, and turns as if to say

-What.

-A deer, I whisper.

-What?

-Over there. It was. Sort of. So big. No horns, so a doe, maybe? Didn’t you hear it?

He shrugs, looks to where my oversized orangebrown longsleeve points, over a dry crest no taller than me. On the other side is a clearing, a few fern ribs poking out from the earth and shading the undergrowth like silvered umbrellas.

-It came down the other side of this bit here, I say.

I thought it was someone walking it was so loud, the slow lop-plop amble of a Sunday on the beach. When you make no sound you sound like a deer. You have to make sure that what you’re looking at is a deer. Always Identify Your Target.

-Why didn’t you shoot it?

-Something’s wrong with my gun, I say. His gun. A few fat kilos of smooth wood and oiled blackmetal, a little telescope on the top that makes the world look greener and so much bigger.

He slings his rifle over his shoulder and gestures for mine. He slides up the bolt, draws it back and a whole round spins out. The air is hot and sweet and so very, very green. The brass of the casing catches the light before it lands in his hand. I slumf my bag on my shoulders a couple of times to shift the weight of water bottles and peanut slabs and a camera with an untouched filmroll. Dad turns the round in his fingers, looks at the back where the pin fires, then to the gun. His breath smells of tea and and kidney, like Granddad without the Port Royal yellow teeth.

-Didn’t you hear it?

He palms the round, shifts the bolt back and forth, tries the safety trigger a couple of times. Slower. Safety on. Safety off. The bullet is still in his hand, warming.

Do Not Squeeze the Trigger Unless You Are Prepared to Kill.

A pin firing sounds like a breaking twig. He shows me the back where the pin fires, where there should be a dent.

Twigs do not break on their own in the bush.

The dent is as clear as the stones on the creekbed, a short sharp hollow in centre of the silvered back of the casing. Dud. He throws the round off to land somewhere in the undergrowth and turns away.

-The deer dashed, I say. I watched it go from the inside of the scope.

Contributor's Note

D.A. Taylor is a graduate of Tracey Slaughter and Catherine Chidgey’s creative writing programme at the University of Waikato. He is working on his first novel.

 

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