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2019 SpringT3BOOKS

Excerpt from We Are Tiny Beneath the Light

By December 18, 2019March 29th, 2024No Comments

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.

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.