blackmail press 26
Penny Somervaille
New Zealand

from: Angipanis of the Abanimal People - Andy Leleisi'auo
Penny Somervaille has just completed a BA at Auckland University as a very mature student.  She has been published in Sidestream and Magazine and read at "Poetry Live" as guest poet and is a regular open mike performer.  She has also read at other live venues around Auckland.’ 

She is sitting in her Laz-E-Boy thinking about life, as one does at her age, and that naturally leads on to thinking about knitting.  She is about as good at knitting as she is at life.  She thinks about those garments that are very complex to knit, and how one puts some stitches onto separate needles and leaves them dangling and then, at a certain point, they are knitted back into the garment, cable stitch and Fair Isle;  or perhaps they are knitted into a sleeve or turned to become a heel.

Of course she consults patterns and even manages to follow them for a while.  When  her knitting doesn’t come together like the garment shown on the smiling model in the picture on the pattern,  it goes into the old suitcase under the bed where she keeps all those uncompleted projects.  She has observed that knitting for someone you love can be a death sentence for that love and the loved one leaves before the jersey or scarf or socks is completed.   If she does finish a jersey it is often the wrong size, the sleeves hanging down to the knees.  Do we remember our lovers as having long wrap-around arms, she wonders.  .

She remembers the tiny knitted garments they had to make at school to dress tiny dolls – if Barbie had been created then, these would have been Barbie’s babies, tiny pink celluloid bodies dressed in tiny knitted garments as though to remind her that her life is small and will always remain small if they have anything to do with it.  But those tiny garments were manageable and the bits one had to pick up and knit back into the mainstream were more easily handled, though they were fiddly come to think of it, and required a manual dexterity she no longer possesses, if indeed she ever did.

She thinks about how she’s knitted her life, and how the finished garment will be the one she’s buried in and will show all the details, including the matted bits under the arms – she shudders,  then smiles and drops a stitch and it unravels down through the rows of plain and purl.  This distracts her from the main purpose,  the serious business of getting on with things.

Of course it’s hard  to knit your garment and to wear it at the same time, unravelling bits here and there,  reknitting them, adding some new wools in different colours,  picking up old parts and incorporating them into the main body,  knowing when the right side matches the left;  accurate measurements have never been her strong point. 

And finally, knowing when to cast-off.

PS  She’s observed that knitting a garment for someone you love can be a death sentence to the love.  Someone told her that there is a website devoted to such an idea but she has never explored it on-line.

Sunday Afternoon

I’ve lit the fire
put pumpkin on to roast
for chickpea fritters

real poets stride out
along stormy cliff tops
the wild wind blowing
their wild hair

I heard someone say

the promised southerly
has struck
direct from Antarctica
bringing wind and rain

avoid that wild southerly blast

hunker down
keep  warm

I want to be an old woman who crosses borders: 
response to a painting by Jason Hall – Its Weight in Gold:

There is a heartline
on a white palm
fairy footprints, graffiti
on fresh snow but
look closer
this is my heartline
these are my footprints
they will remain
when the snow melts
the landscape changes.

Love And Abandonment

On Friday a Len Castle platter caught my eye
displayed in a Museum cabinet.

           I remembered

how it was to hold and use such a dish
to cook with love
and abandonment.

Suddenly on Wednesday you looked out at me
from a gold frame on a sideboard

           and I remembered
           love and abandonment

I lost my Len Castle
and you were borrowed.

Landscape of dreams. 
A Garden of the Heart.

The garden shed I don’t have
has lots     of      space


I keep the rat poison
           on top of the pantry
weed killer
           under the house

I locate stuff to kill
                                               biting pests
by the contained toxic smell
from securely knotted  plastic bags

a hoe leans against
           a wall
alongside fork and spade

brooms hang
from nails
into weatherboards

a plastic bucket
           and two large pottery jars
catch rainwater from clogged gutters
over the french doors

water for the cat
breeding places for mozzies and
           an economy against drought.

secret supplies
           of whiskey, gin and brandy

hidden amongst shoes
in my wardrobe

but if I had a shed …

Theatrical Roles for Old Women

May I be the Old Woman in your play?
You know –
the one
           who tucks a lock of hair
           out of the eyes of the child
and who
           stirs the pot on the stove
            tells the same old stories
           again and

She’s the one
           who gets underfoot
           opens yet another tin of Gourmet cat food
           for her ancient cat –

           her walking stick
           trips up more people
           than it saves.

That Old Woman –  you know
           she tucks rags and tissues
           down the side of the sofa
           she won’t use her hearing aids
           so you have to shout
           Gran! just sit down and take it easy.

I could grumble or
           sing an old song in a  quavery voice
           and dance a few steps.

Not a starring role you understand,
just the Old Woman
on the set of a Chekhov play