Spring 2019




Excerpt from We Are Tiny Beneath the Light

By Heidi North

The Chickens  


It was never my idea  

to get the chickens 


I almost blacked out 

in St Mark’s square in Venice 


when the pigeons flocked low  

and brushed my face 


you laughed and laughed 

and I almost decided not to marry you then 


but when you saw the fear was true  

you led me off to eat squid-ink pasta 


and drink light- filled  

glasses of Prosecco in that sinking city 


But once your idea of chickens took hold  

a good wife, I ran with it 


I found a home-made henhouse 

and arranged the trailer to carry it to our backyard 


On the rescue-chicken site 

I was seduced by two scrappy featherless birds 


I drove to Bunnings 

and talked supplies with the nice man 


while the toddler busted around the store  

and I hauled white chicken wire home 


scattered organic chicken food – 

with the toddler on my hip 


trying to dive into the chicken shit –  

because I felt sorry for those damn birds 


I endured the leaf-blowing nosey neighbour  

telling me he wanted chickens as a child 


but only got ducks 

After their first day I said 


You need to clip those chicken’s wings 

You said Those chickens have never seen natural light 


they won’t know how to fly 

and when they flew out of their flimsy cage  


into the unfenced yard 

Mr Leaf Blower laughing, saying Don’t be silly, girlie  


heart knocking I got closer than I dared 

to shunt those birds back inside their pen 


because the toddler was watching  

and I inherited this fear 


from my own mother 

A week after you told me you were leaving 


we came home to empty space  

where the henhouse once sat 


only the white chicken wire suspended  

around nothing, Chick-chick? the toddler said 


my ache of loss for the birds was a surprise  

Mr Leaf Blower went past 


Did you eat them? 

I looked him in the eye Yes 


I never asked you where the chickens went  

You never said 


They culled those pigeons in St Mark’s square  

murdered every last one 



Piha Beach, two years on 


Our feet punch bruises in the black sand 

and I am back in the burn of childhood summers  


the circle of sentinel gulls 

their grey wings tipped to catch the light  


warn me back 

but I go down to the white foam edge  


bluebottles boated with their pretty poison  

yield to the sharp edge of my stick  


I go down to the place 

where the wind kicks holes through my heart  


and there is a child down there 

too close to the ribbony horizon line  


holding his blue kite  

towards the updraft  


still smiling as it lurches 

against the wide white blaze of sky –  


and I smile and laugh and I take my daughter’s hand  

and together we run with him  


because how can I tell them 

all the brutal things are yet to come  




The girls burst from the car 

bare feet fly  



over the tussock  


shoes kicked off  

they dive into the black sand 



charging towards Lion Rock 


Clara determined to climb it 

Indie behind her, wind whisking 


my protests of danger away – 

no rails, jagged rocks – 


so I follow, running now 

behind them up the crumbly path  


finally hearing me  

they turn 


a whip-whipped tangle of hair 

their unruined faces caught with light 


and I can’t help but love them 

my brave fierce daughter  


and fearless step-daughter – 

a child once afraid of the wind – 


I want to yell Come back, turn around 

but they’re looking at me 


like they still believe in my bravery 

Wait for me I say instead 


Wait for me 

and they will, this time  






From the top we survey our domain 

the sand, the sea, those hills – 


for an instant each soft blade  

of tussock is picked out in brilliant sunshine  


the world sharpened by tiny shadows  



The poems are from We are tiny beneath the light, The Cuba Press, published with permission from the publisher.  

About Heidi North

Heid North’s second poetry collection, We are tiny beneath the light was published in November 2019. Heidi is a graduate of the Master of Creative Writing Programme, University of Auckland, and has won awards for both her poems and short stories, including an international Irish poetry prize and has been published in anthologies and magazines here and overseas. Heidi was the NZ fellow on the Shanghai International Writers Programme in 2016. Her first collection was Possibility of flight. She lives in Auckland with her family.