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Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

Four Steps To Standing on a Horse - Penny Howard - 2014
Ruth Arnison lives and works in Dunedin. She is the editor of Poems in the Waiting Room(NZ), an arts in health charity which distributes 6700 free poetry cards every season to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, prisons and hospices.


A melting moment

The meatballs are cruising in the oven, spuds spinning
in the microwave and veggies verging on the boil.

She reaches for the peeler - four grannys
and two darkening bananas collated
into a crumble.

Answering the commanding ping she removes
the spuds, unfoils the casserole and wipes
the bench of tears and onion skins.

Scooping up the processor, destined for the dishwasher,
she catches herself opening the oven door,
narrowly avoiding a melting moment.

The portrait
for Lew

Lew’s captured that
wide nose catapulting down his face,
pulled up short by
great rubbery kai smacking lips.

He eyes my every move.
I may be hung up here but by Jesus
it doesn’t mean
I have to be still as a stiff.

Yep keep looking
over your shoulder cos I’m following you
around the room girl.
A smile unbuttons his lips.

Wahine Smoking

My favouritest thing at that Olveston place was
that old guy’s painting of the wahine.

Some of the kids didn’t think much of it but I
reckon she looked real cool.

The teacher said, look what happens to you girls
if you smoke - that wahine is only 18.

We all laughed, ‘cos he’s a right clown our teacher.
Katie May don’t always pick up things real quick
and she said,

What school did that kid go to sir? Must’ve been
a cool one letting her have tats AND jewellery.

We all laughed our socks off and Katie May went,
what, what are you lot laughing at ?

The guide just smiled and asked us to follow her.
They must hear a right load of old bosh,
those guides.

Just another Dunedin morning

7.00am spoonbills are breakfasting in the harbour,
heads down, methodically patterning across the water,
like police walking a grid.

Motorboat voices microphone muffled instructions
as blades catch and drive, catch and drive, shooting
the double scull forward.

We watch raucous seagulls squawking, squabbling,
swooping, skimming, and soaring through
unpopped bubble wrap clouds.

Worn out pizza and burger boxes are scattered
on the rocky shore – the tide is not a takeaway business.

Our walking-to-work legs never falter as our voices
swerve, dip, and dive between conversations
and observations.

We gasp as pink hues, plucked from the sunrise palette,
spread across the city skyline.

Silent fisherman, hooked to their deck chairs, line the wharf
with baited buckets, rods wavering like multiple
forward slashes on a keyboard.

Pedestrian Cross Now signals are ignored as vehicles rush
the red lights.  Our relaxed repartee shifts to taut body language,
clenched hands, tense shoulders.

Police and ambulance sirens scream with indignation
as they’re stalled and snarled in the city’s early morning gridlock.

Outcast smokers slouch against graffitied alleyway walls
before being inhaled into another work day.

As we’re drawn in, we’re affronted by an overwhelming stench.
The weekend staff have left fast food remains and half-drunk
chocolate milk bottles lying comatose in the kitchen.

We open office windows, check Facebook, then heads down,
methodically wade through another work day in the city.