While browsing through the bins at The Paper Nautilus, came across an unfamiliar publication: JAAM, which stands for Just Another Art Movement, an annual journal of writing published in Wellington, NZ. This particular issue – #29, published in 2011 shortly after the devastating earthquakes in New Zealand, includes pieces that reflect the upheavals, and suggest a form of recourse: as guest editor Anne Kennedy writes, “…we need imaginative possessions and imaginative action….We in the Pacific may find these indestructible goods and deeds necessary to place ourselves.”
And isn’t that a purpose of art, to place ourselves in some constellation of meaning and sense? So while our physical spaces may be vulnerable –“ the house on the sand” – the poet fixes a place for it in our memory, even if it is not our own particular memory, but a shared sensibility conveyed by the artist’s words.
St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Island Church
Of the backs of women’s heads piled high with loops of hair
White hats pierced through like the side of Christ
Of the train of ministers lining up all the way around the block
to their multi-storied home in the sky
Of the baptisms, weddings and funerals of everyone we know
Of the gauzy clouds of White Sunday
Children hurtling out of the sky like hailstones
Shouting the words of the saints over and over
Of the tiny pockets of air inside the mouths of women
The clicking of gum and the echoing of it up into the vaulted ceilings
Up into the ears of God
Of the sopranto, alto, bass
Of the men in their suit jackets and skirts
Bent and shuffling over the raspberry blood in sweet little glasses
Passing us, down through the 70s
Where they flapped to Englebert and Tom In the church hall
Of Yellow Ree-vah, Yellow Ree-vah
You’re in my mind and in my soul
Of their straight backs in the 50s, their sharp suits
The brylcreemed profiles handsome as movie extras
Returning us to Paradise.
We all snake forward into the tangled steel spaghetti
The spliced Corinthian columns
The disappeared gothic dome
The foolish man who built his house on the sand.
We all fade into the archaeology
Of an ancient and invisible people
The Samoans, cook Islanders, Niueans, Tokelauans
And Tongans of Cashel St and Madras.
Quake poem 5
Our roof is broken.
Tiles cracked. The
The light gets in,
slivers of air slicing
to soft pink heart.
Our roof is broken.
When the rain falls it
will scribble decay on
the ceiling. We will lie
in our white bed and
read above our heads
the end of things.
Our roof is broken.
We should cover it with
plastic, tie the tarp tight
at each corner so that
when the wind blows
it will not lift the lid
beneath which we lie
in our white bed, two
bare bald crinkled things.
We will look up as the roof
lifts. The air will come in,
tickling our stuff with
speculative fingers, rain
will fall on our bare faces.
But we are too timid for
the tarp. The ladder sways.
There is so far to fall.
We might never stop.
Then Hayden comes in
his new truck. He runs
up the rungs, walks on
broken tile. He ties the
tarp while we stand
below, looking up:
bare, bald, crinkled.
And that night we lie
in our white bed as
on Hayden’s new tarpaulin.
Other selections in JAAM 29 include Lynn Jenner’s Four Russian Pieces
“For the borscht you will need six boats of garlic, a plastic container of sour cream contaminated with heavy metals, a long slow river, two big breasted grandmothers, four scavenging bears, one mass grave, one mother, two diamonds, two litres of unskimmed chicken stock, three big potatoes, five hundred grams of cabbage and three beetroots. This will be enough to give six people two servings. It is the Russian custom to fill up your guests to the top.”
Paula Green’s picaresque poem Day, imagining Jane Frame* and Frank Sargeson* “in a dinghy on Lake Pupuke/in the middle of the night under a milky moon…..To be awake when everyone else is sleeping/puts the world in sharp focus/even in the dark on the lolloping waves.”
Murray Edmond’s lyrical Clown on Skates “life lived until your holes were full of shoes/five dollar wallet worn out with singing”
And Erin Scudder’s dreamy California Quintet – The Idea of California:
“Hockney painted/the idea of water./His blue waves/reach me/all the way/from L.A…..Do not say/I do not know it./I know it/Like you know the moon.”
JAAM includes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and artwork, and can be found here.
Cover image for JAAM 29 by Jocelyn Carlin.
Frank Sargeson was the pen name of Norris Frank Davey. He is considered one of New Zealand’s foremost short story writers.