Helen Rickerby
New Zealand

Helen Rickerby’s poetry was included in the 1998 anthology of young writers, New Zealand Writing: The NeXt Wave. In her first collection of poetry, Abstract Internal Furniture (HeadworX 2001), she playfully combined the mythic with the everyday to examine themes of identity, self discovery, the construction of femininity, and relationships between friends and lovers. She is a founding editor of JAAM magazine.
Pre-Raphaelite Girls

Pre-Raphaelite girls
are bound
within their frames
by some kind
of enchantment

their limbs are heavy as iron

they gaze languidly
at something off to the side
in the middle distance

Pre-Raphaelite girls
will never
look you in the eye

Pre-Raphaelite girls
are trying to seduce you
with their hair

loose, luxuriant
luscious, lascivious

it falls on their bare
shoulders, their poisoned dresses
slipping off one

Behind them
the sky turns red

In wolf’s clothing

I’m tip-toeing through the woods
peering out
from behind trees
avoiding the paths
    who knows who
I might meet
and I know
there is something
someone dangerous
out there

The shortest way
to Grandmother’s house
is to cut through
the field of wild violets
I breathe deeply
as I pad across their sweetness
Must hurry now
she expects me
every Sunday afternoon

Today I take her strawberries
from my own patch. She will make
me tea, we will talk
She is my only consolation
my only friend

Through the branches I catch
the first sight of Grandmother’s
red roof, but freeze
as I hear twigs breaking:
on the other side of the bush
is the Girl
entwined with a woodcutter
I back away from their
moans, I know better than
to be seen

When I am out of earshot
I run as fast as I can
towards Grandmother’s gate

‘I saw your granddaughter today’
I say, when I am safe, curled
on the hearth rug
lapping my tea.

‘Red suits her’, she sniggers
and I smile, but I feel
shivers run through my silver fur
I have seen her sharpening
the woodcutters’ axes

I know what she will do
I know who she will blame


When the cracks start
you cover them
with sellotape

It’s only when they
open up
that you see
the gaping hole
is a door
to some other place
that you, or he
could step right through
and never come back

you imagine him
stretching over the
egg-shells, ducking down
like a pelican, through, and
on his own

At first
you scream
that you would perish

and then you wonder
whether you even care

and maybe it should be you
who takes
that first step

But then, as you see
his foot twitching, you realise
    and you seize his hand
and march
through the door
where you find
the world isn’t collapsing