http://www.makepovertyhistory.org.nz beautiful monsters: April 2003 Archives

April 29, 2003

Oh dear...

Iíve been given a lot of psychiatric labels in the past few years, but one I have not been given is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Sometimes, however, I wonder if I do have a mild form of OCD. I would explain a lot of things in my life. It would help explain the whole obsessive blogging thing. WHY do I feel compelled to check everyoneís blogs every half hour, just in case anyone has updated? And I have to check my own blog at least a million times a day just in case someone has commented. Itís really rather tragic.

I do plan to get a real life sometime in the near future, honestÖ

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:46 AM

April 28, 2003

Fun (and games)

This weekend I was introduced to the coolest game EVER! Itís called Ex Libris, and basically everyone brings along some books, and you take turns holding up a book and saying a bit about it and who the main characters are (or reading the blurb on the back). Then everyone has to make up a plausible first (or last) line for the book. All the answers are shuffled up with the real first line, and the person reads them out. Everyone has to guess which is the real first line. There were some people there who were really good writers, and all the participants had a fantastic sense of humour. As a result, many of the lines were very convincing (often better than the actual lines from the books!) and the rest were incredibly funny. Some examples can be found in the china shop

If you brought along a book and no one guessed the actual first line, you got 2 points. If someone else brought along a book and you guessed the correct first line, you got 1 point. If other people thought that the line you invented was the correct first line, you got 1 point for each person who voted for it. (At least I think thatís how it went).

I wasnít very good at the game. I started off ok, but then I slipped way behind. I think I drank too much boozy hot chocolate and got too silly and giggly (which is not like me at all, honest). So then I spent the rest of the time making up lines like this;

ďFanny,Ē cried Anne, as she grabbed a cup of coffee and bounced tentatively towards Sazís trembling bud, but she was too late, the sun was already westering towards Avalon, and Timmy the dog was devouring the last of the Christian Alien teachers with Lashings of Gingerbeer (TM) his ears shining and pink with happiness, oblivious to the frantic cries of the Gumbles who were shouting ďMind your backswing,Ē but Timmy didnít see the bogey louvre, and the evil conniving fairies (who werenít pretty and sparkly at all) were too fast and pretty soon Timmy the horse was drifting down the river, closely resembling an ashtray (which, incidentally, he found educational) and the story might have ended there, or maybe it began, in the cold northern darkness, where there was a tree, and some godsÖ oh, and there was coffee.

OK, maybe they werenít quite like that.

I might run out of suitable books if we have a second round. I donít actually have many novels. Plenty of poetry books and non-fiction, but not many novels. And the ones I do own tend to have first or last lines like this;

I wrote that during those enchanted weeks time expanded, curled back on itself, turned inside out like a magicianís hankerchief, and that Rolf Carle Ė his solemnity shattered to bits and his vanity somewhere in the clouds Ė was able to exorcise his nightmares and again sing the songs of his boyhood, and that I at last danced the belly dance I had learned in the kitchen of Riad Halabi, and amid laughter and sips of wine told many stories, including some with a happy ending.

I donít know if this one would work for ex libris Ė itís too clever and foreign and it would probably stick out too much. But who knows? The human mind works in weird and wonderful waysÖ

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:09 PM

Oh, Canada

Because I should be writing a story for my class this afternoon and not blogging, I bring you this monologue by Canadian comedian Rick Mercer from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" on CBC Television:

On behalf of Canadians everywhere I'd like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven't been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry.

I'm sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron but it wasn't nice of us to point it out. If it's any consolation, the fact that he's a moron shouldn't reflect poorly on the people of America. After all, it's not like you actually elected him.

I'm sorry about our softwood lumber. Just because we have more trees than you doesn't give us the right to sell you lumber that's cheaper and better than your own.

I'm sorry we beat you in Olympic ice hockey. In our defense, I guess our excuse would be that our team was much, much, much, much better than yours.

I'm sorry we burnt down your White House during the War of 1812. I notice you've rebuilt it! It's very nice.

I'm sorry about your beer. I know we had nothing to do with your beer, but we feel your pain.

I'm sorry about our waffling on Iraq. I mean, when you're going up against a crazed dictator, you want to have your friends by your side.

I realize it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different. Everyone knew he had weapons.

And finally on behalf of all Canadians, I'm sorry that we're constantly apologizing for things in a passive-aggressive way, which is really a thinly veiled criticism. I sincerely hope that you're not upset over this. We've seen what you do to countries you get upset with.

Thank you.
Rick Mercer

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:03 AM

April 26, 2003

EeeeeeEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEeeeeee

I canít sleep. Thereís this high-pitched squealing noise. The kitchen tap wonít turn off, so itís gushing water and making a squealing noise. Iím feeling guilty about the wasted water, worrying about our kitchen getting flooded, and I have a splitting headache. I wish Iíd done Intro to Plumbing 101. I wish I could easily contact my uncle (he lives around here, somewhere, in a garage, with no phone, but heís really good at fixing things when he does turn up). I wish there was a 24 hour emergency plumber. I wish I could find my lease agreement so I could find out whether I could get the money back for a plumber. I wish I had a stash of emergency earplugsÖ I wishÖ I wishÖ I wish I could sleep.

*Update - Saturday Morning*

The plumber just did something to the tap, and suddenly we had the Niagara falls in our kitchen, and the plumber (soaking wet) yelled oh shit and ran out of the house.

(I hope he just went to turn the mains off).

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:19 AM

April 25, 2003

Obsessional substitution

One moment it was morning and I was making a list of the things I was going to do todayÖ the next moment it was dark and I was wandering through Aro Valley with a dazed expression on my face. What happened to today? Oh no! Could this be my latest obsession? Iíve heard that people do that. Substitute different addictions when they try to give something up. I stopped cutting and started drinking chocolate. Lots of drinking chocolate. Sometimes I forgot to add the soy milk and water. And now that Iím trying to give up drinking chocolate, I need something else to satisfy my urges. Oh dear. Iím really glad that I donít have a TV. Iím guilt tripping enough that I spent the whole afternoon glued to the screen at a friendís house. I feel as though I should have done something worthwhile during that time. But maybe Iím being too hard on myselfÖ Iím consoling myself with the fact that I got so far without watching Buffy. All those months of doing worthwhile things. I must have earned a break by nowÖ

Now I have to be careful where I go on the net. See, I thought looking for a picture would be ok, cos a picture canít say that much about plot. Can it? Apparently. Like, whoís she? Is he? No! She canít! But butÖ thatís just wrong! Bad bad BAD and wrong! Please tell me theyíre just slash-pics. Is there such a thing? And what the hell is she doing withÖ No! Shhhhhhhhh, donít tell me. Iím only up to season two.

Oh yeah, and talking about obessions. Iíve just discovered site stats. Ooooh, new toy. So far all Iíve found out is how much I log on. Which is a lot. No really. A LOT. Iím so tragic! But see, this whole movable type thing is so new and fun and I keep having to make minute changes that no one else will notice, and then I have to check my site and see what it looks like. And then I have to go and check everyone elseís blogs to see if theyíve updatedÖ and thenÖ oh dear.

Donít mind me. Iím just the tragic one in the corner attached to one screen or another.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:46 PM

April 24, 2003

Another day, another rejection letter (another long blog entry)Ö

In the mail today:

A stack of magazines from the NZ Institute of Architects who havenít figured out that Iím not going to be an architect any more.

A postcard from Charlotte Yates announcing the release of her new CD, Plainsong.

A brief rejection letter from a publisher I donít particularly like, for a poem Iíd forgotten about sending, so not too much grief there. StillÖ

A package from my parents, containing a new mouse (look, no balls), several MDs of chamber music, a stash of ink cartridges, and a big bag of cape gooseberries. Yum!

Letters for seven different people who no longer live here.

Just another tragic angsty rant

I feel like such a failure at the moment. Could be to do with getting another rejection letter, but thatís only part of it. I couldnít handle architecture school. I had to pull out of the Tohu Maoritanga. Iím behind schedule with my writing and my painting. Iím way behind with my IHC training. I never get out to the marae any more, I never find time to plant trees or paint stencils or organise events. I havenít been back to the Indymedia meetings, I havenít been to Aikido, and my guava tree is dying and I have no idea what to do about itÖ blah blah blah. I donít seem to have the energy to do anything. But I want to. So Iím beating myself up about it. Beat beat beat.

Footsteps

Our flat has been very quiet lately. Just me a lot of the time. Now, all of a sudden, there are lots and lots of people, most of whom I donít know, wearing woolly hats and big boots and carrying six-packs of Monteithís and showing off the tattoos that they did themselves, freestyle. My female flatmates are very giggly and the whole house smells floral. Iím hiding in my room. Floral smells give me hayfever.

Wannabe writer seeks validation

Iíve got such mixed feelings about my writing at the moment. Part of me thinks that the whole publication/awards/launches/etc world is wanky and exclusive and I donít want to be part of it. But part of me really wants to be ďsuccessfulĒ in that world. At the moment Iím just sitting on the fence humming and hawing. I feel as though I probably could write the style of poetry that seems to be ďpublishable.Ē But it would mean some degree of compromise. I would be editing my work just because I knew that was what the editors wanted, not because I thought that it would be better or more worthwhile. I donít know if I believe poetry should be about getting published in journals and getting a pat on the back from Bill Manhire and Fergus Barrowman. I donít know if I even want that. I donít think I really see that as success. For me, I know I have achieved something when Iím at a crowded party, and someone picks up a folder of my poems and opens it at a page, and then reads the whole poem, and then sits down in a corner and reads the whole folder, and then goes to show her friend. I know I have achieved something when I read a poem in a noisy pub, and the whole room goes silent, and when I finish I have compete strangers coming up to me and hugging me and crying. And the kinds of poems that have that effect on people are not the kinds of poems that get accepted by journals. Oh and did I mention how much it bugs me that I have received rejection slips from five different men? I havenít found any women editors to send my poems to.

I canít resist the temptation. Iím going to put in another cut and paste rant. This one is the essay I put at the end of my poetry folio.

The Case for the Defense

This course has turned my life upside down. There I was, down at the architecture school at some grisly hour of the night, sedulously gluing together tiny (but very expensive) bits of wood and plastic... The next moment I was surrounded by people who understood the importance of semi-colons and the wonder of the Ďbest words in the best order.í

It was a revelation. I learnt some very important truths about myself.

When someone says to me ďcreate a model no larger than 200 x 200mm inspired by Len Lye that demonstrates rotational motion using symmetry as an ordering principle and conveying a sense of infinite space and salient surface using only overhead transparencies and a staple gun...Ē I fall apart, drink huge quantities of sugar and caffeine, wake up at all hours drowning in panic, and take to my wrists with scalpel blades.

On the other hand, if someone says to me ďwrite a sestina X ways of looking at Y in syllabics using only words found on page 6 of the Dominion Post but also make room for a teapot, a seasick iguana, a man who collects cat claws, three priests, and the Lonely Planet Guide to Yemen...Ē I fall in love.

I donít mix well with architecture; I want to write.

The past few weeks have been challenging, as well as exciting. I have been faced with some difficult decisions regarding what I write about, and how much attention I pay to peopleís comments about my work.

Sometimes people say my poems are too personal, too direct, I use the first person too freely. Too personal? How can writing be anything but personal? I am reminded of my experiences of essay writing. Research is supposed to be objective, and the word ďIĒ is forbidden because ďIĒ implies that the work is subjective and biased. (Which it is. Everyone has biases and these always influence their work).

Perhaps something similar happens in literature? Poetry is supposed to be universal, it touches on some big ĎTruth.í Using the word ďIĒ is a reminder that our experiences and accounts of the world can only be personal.

My poems are direct, and often in the first person, and this is a conscious choice. I canít claim to speak for anyone else Ė the only experiences I have are my own. The use of ďIĒ in my poems is also related to the spaces my poems have developed in, including the Mad Genius Songwriterís nights at the Bluenote. My poems are created to be performed, they are a dialogue between ďIĒ and you Ė the audience.

I am also conscious of my identity as a writer within a patriarchal culture. Writing my poems in my own voice is an attempt to define and speak about my own experiences in my own terms.

I have noticed that people are more critical of my poems when they deal with issues such as sexual abuse or madness. When I write an ode to Kim Hill, and say ďI once had the honour of playing you in a radio drama,Ē it is personal, direct, and doesnít leave a lot to the imagination; itís just telling a story. But no one says ďDear KimĒ is too personal, in fact, most people seem to think itís a great poem. On the other hand, when I write about rape, all of a sudden thereís a lot wrong with my poetry.

During this course I have thought a lot about what poetry is, and who creates our definitions of poetry. In the past there has been no visible tradition of poetry by women. As Dinah Birch notes, the power of poetry has been ďclosely bound up with the continuity of its traditions.Ē Historically, women have been barred from education, and have not had access to classical traditions of poetry.

It would be nice to believe that things are different now. After all, we have Jenny Bornhoult and Lauris Edmond... Howver, recently I flicked through a few anthologies of poetry from Aotearoa. In the first (my favourite collection) about 40% of the poets were women. In our course text, the number of women dropped to about 35%. In other recent anthologies, less than 30% of the poets were women.
What does this mean?

I believe that men have always defined our ideas about what poetry is, and what makes good poetry. The very language we write in is inherently sexist, and there is an absence of words to refer to womenís experiences.

People have described my poetry as ďconfessionalĒ or ďpersonal poetryĒ Ė alright to show to your friends, but not the sort of thing you would publish. The word ďconfessionalĒ implies that the writer ďhas done something embarrassing and inappropriate for which transgression she is in need of absolution.Ē Why is ďconfessionalĒ poetry usually by women (or rather, why is autobiographical poetry by men not seen as confessional)? Could it be that the label is simply ďhandy for dismissing art that the critic wishes to trivializeĒ? Could it be that womenís experiences are seen as inferior, embarrassing, or trivial?

Who decides what is ďgood poetry,Ē and what it should be about? I believe that women have different experiences of the world, and this shapes our writing. However the freedom of the press belongs to he who owns the press. Joanna Russ notes that when screening candidates for an MA program in creative writing, her rankings of the top twenty samples written by men were almost identical to the ranking of her male colleaguesí. However her ranking of the top twenty samples by women was almost exactly the inverse of theirs. She was outnumbered Ė none of her female choices made it into the program. She believes that men cannot understand the experiences which shape womenís writing, and writing by women does not fit their conception of what poetry is.

Women are not the only ones who exist on the margins of literature. Poetry is about communication, about showing something beautiful, or painful, about sharing experiences. There are long Maori traditions of creative and poetical communication, which are underrepresented in our literary history. Contemporary Maori writers
are producing some amazing work, but Maori literature is still underrepresented. ďHe who owns the pressĒ tends to be white, and to succeed in literary circles Maori writers have to pass a Pakeha-defined test. I have the utmost respect for Maori writers, who (as Merata Mita puts it) manage to ďexpress their peculiarly Maori experience in the language of the oppressor.Ē

I have been told that my poems are too political. I believe everything we do is political, from the clothes we buy or the food we eat... to the things we write. Or allude to, or donít say at all as the case may be. Part of the story I live is about rape and about being locked in a psych ward, and about trying to survive these things. If I write about everything else but not these things, it feels like Iím lying.

I believe silence is a breeding ground for fear, ignorance, and violence. If I only write poems that people feel comfortable reading, I am contributing to the silence. And sometimes the weight of silence is unbearable. I want to speak these words because there are others who do not have a voice. Yes I am angry and it hurts and itís all so close to home... but donít say that like itís a bad thing.

Some of my poems are one-sided accounts of shared stories. I donít want to speak for others, I am not giving a factual account of what happened. Instead, I have tried to capture a feeling, a page of a story, a fragment of life.

Other poems are about experiences I have not personally lived through, however there are parallels in my own life. For example, I can never fully comprehend what it is like to be sent to a concentration camp, but injustice and pain have scarred me, and as a queer activist I am part of a community of people who were sent to the camps. I want to offer my voice as I struggle to understand the experiences of others.

In some of my poems I use te reo Maori. I am Pakeha - my ancestors came here from Scotland and England. But I am not European, my roots have been in the soil of Aotearoa for six generations. Growing up in Rotorua, tikanga Maori was the obvious alternative to the western modernist way of life. I have been challenged about my use of images from Maori (his)stories. As a child, these images were part of my life, and shaped my perceptions of the world around me. They have become a part of my truth, and to let go of that would be painful. I use te reo Maori as part of my journey, learning the language, and as a sign of my respect and love for te reo. As I mentioned, my poetry is created to be performed, and some of the words in my poems are songs or chants. I hope that (to borrow words from Keri Hulme) ďif you sing words you will hear singing, even when the words are flat on paper.Ē If I have used words and images in a context that anyone objects to, I am sorry to have caused offense. I am approaching te reo from a Pakeha perspective, because that is who I am, and the only route I can take. I have not provided a translation Ė Maori is an official language of Aotearoa, and of our university. If you donít have a dictionary, you should get one!

When you read these poems, by all means, think to yourself ďis this a good poem.Ē Then go a step further and ask yourself ďgood for what? Good for whom?Ē
I hope you will be challenged, surprised, and delighted.

Na Fionnaigh.

And if you made it to the endÖ

This is turning into another looooong blog entry, huh? I just thought that after all that ranting about my poems I should give you a couple of samples! These are actually two versions of the same poem, believe it or not. I wrote the second one after getting feedback from my course, saying that my poetry was too personal, and there was too much emphasis on bleeding, etc. (Well hey, blood has been a constant theme in my life). I like both versions, for different reasons.

Again, donít know if I should put a warning before this one. It does deal with abuse a bit, though I donít know, itís not really explicit. Sort of. I donít know. Donít read it if youíre not sure if youíll be traumatised or something!

A history of Bleeding

There are no words.

When someone takes your sexuality
and twists it, bruises it with their own body
rips you open, leaving a deep gorge
that runs from between your legs, through
your stomach, to a pool at the base of your throat,

and something cold flows out of it

the only language
is blood.

*

Little moon, you must have clung so tight
to the inside of your mother
you ripped off a piece of her.

Perhaps thatís why
there is so much blood.

Your mother threw back her head and screamed
she didnít want to let go either, but you gave up
and we dragged you out by your feet and kept on dragging you
into the world, into an ambulance, leaving
your mother gasping on her knees
a pool of blood spreading quietly.

*

I donít want to touch
the water, it seems dark enough
to drown in, and there are things floating in it
strands of pink, brighter red
colours I cannot name.

It was almost midnight
the last time I checked my watch.
How many people have been born
and died since then?

I canít breathe, the air is so thick
with the scent of blood.
There are pools of it
in the shadows behind the sofa
under the bed.

Only the moon
understands
each month
her belly swells
with all the pain we
cannot bear.

*

How heavy can it be
blood and water?


Breathless

You clung so tight
colours ripped apart
and came
flying.

They settled in the corners
left moist secretions
thickening scents

Our voices
drained from us

we wandered around the house
clutching at bright pieces
as they sank

impossibly
heavy.


We closed
our eyes

left
with the weight


the question
of your voice.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 09:44 PM

April 23, 2003

cosas sentimentales (y un cuestionario)

Vickyvix is doing a survey about blogging. Itís for a paper (I think over there that means an assignment, not an entire university course). Anyway, itís fun, go and check it out. Weblog Survey.

Real women?

I think Iona was a bit harsh about Real Women Have Curves.
I didnít think it was a crayon copy. It could have been a documentary about life in San Carlos. The sympathetic father could have been my first host father. The mother was an absolute clone of my host mother.

Perhaps itís a cultural thing. When I was in Costa Rica, most of the people I met did seem flat and clichťd. The relationships between people seemed really superficial.

Maybe I just didnít get the Ticos. Maybe Iona just didnít get the movie. Maybe itís a cultural thing. Or maybe it was a low budget movie? The romantic thing did seem a bit flimsyÖ

Despite flatness, I want to go back to Costa Rica!

Iím having cravings for the food, the music, the heat (Iím choosing to forget how grumpy the heat made me). I want to pick guavas from the tree. I want to dip green mangoes in salt and chilli. I want to go to La Avispa on a women only night and dance Salsa with gorgeous queer Latinas. I want to hear toucans gurgling in the trees. I want to eat frijoles refritos wrapped up in tortillas. I want to watch the fireflies coming out, and Arenal volcano glowing on the horizon. And most of all, I want to see my friend Minor.

Another poem! Apologies to Hinemoana, who has already read most of my poems. The trouble is, I havenít had time to finish any new ones since starting this Childrenís Writing course. Asi es la vida. And apologies to all of you, because Iím only posting my less successful poems. Iím paranoid that this will count as publication and I wonít be able to publish them in a journal or somewhereÖ so Iím only posting the ones that I donít care about. And that way I donít care so much if someone steals them. Not that any of you would. But someone random from the internet might. Iím paranoid, ok?

San Carlos

Even in the mountains heat clings to our bodies
the wind is tired and will not offer comfort.

In el centro the footpaths crumble
onto the dirty streets
we have to shout
above the noise
the crowds
the filth.

We cannot bear to watch the bullfights.
The muchachos breathe in the dust and violence
but the bull does not die
in San Carlos.

As the humid afternoon sprawls before us
we discover the hardest thing in the world
is finding the words in Spanish
to tell a seven year old girl
she will soon go blind

a woman spits in our faces
because the glasses we give her
are the wrong colour

until now
we have not
understood
frustration.

As we give up in exhaustion
a man who has never seen
comforts us
with his hands.

At last the stars creep down
to dance among the long grasses.
They ignore the sign painted to a tree:
Please donít annoy the crocodiles.

La Plaza central hums
as people tumble out of the church
religion painted on the walls and faces.

In el supermercado
we discover that we can buy awful rum
for the price of a bar of chocolate
back home.

We learn that we cannot dance salsa
but we dance anyway.

The men here make us sick and with alcohol
we try to blur out the loose eyes and hands.
As we throw up we forget the reason
we felt sick in the first place.

In the distance
the volcano grumbles

even at as we sleep
the heat clings to us.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:47 AM

April 21, 2003

Cat (and other scans)

This is what happens when you donít phone ahead and make bookings for a movie at the Penthouse. Or perhaps this is what happens when you try to go to two movies in a row. Either way, the moral of the story is listen to your mother, lest you get decapitated by a bus.


cat.jpg

Iona and Ed and Fee were bored, trapped inside on a cold wet Easter Monday with only three pens and a few scraps of paper for amusement. (Actually thatís not true, we had copious amounts of DVDs, just none that we felt like watching). See if you can guess who drew which body part.


alien.jpg

Want more?


pop.jpg


curlie.jpg


tentacles.jpg


tigrrrr.jpg

Posted by Fionnaigh at 07:12 PM

April 20, 2003

It never rains but it pours

It always happens like this. Something awful happens, and I get hurt and upset, but Iím ok. And then something else happens, and Iím struggling even more, but Iím hanging in. And then something else happens, and something else, and something elseÖ and then I crack. Things havenít quite got to breaking point yet, but I feel as though Iím heading in that direction.

A close friend of mine who lives in Costa Rica has a tumour that needs to be removed as soon as possible. The trouble is, he doesnít have the money for the operation. He has AIDS, but heís been a bit better the last couple of years. But now Iím really worried about him. I wish I could pay for his operation. Anyone got a few thousand dollars spare? Iím going to go to the bank when they open after Easter, and see if I can get a loan. I wish I could see him again, I miss him so much. I wrote this poem when I hadnít heard from him in a long time and I was worried about him.

Minor

If I cry loud enough
will I drown out the rain
storms rattling the corrugated iron
over your bed?
Is this aching strong enough to break
open the cacao fruit
and would you notice
as they burst and bleed
through your kitchen window.

I would bring you the lily
of our first day, blood
red perfection. Remember
how it glowed? The petals
watched us all night murmuring
their approval.
I was afraid, your arms
were so fragile I thought my love
would break you. I thought
my ignorance would hurt you.

Perhaps you have died already,
would I even know?
Who would tell me, who
could grieve with me
would I feel the earth
sigh, as your spirit broke
free from your body?

Here
red ribbons
bloom in the streets
announcing the passing
of another year
in silence.

*

And the latest news is that my grandfather has had a heart attack. And his wife is probably going to leave him and sell the house (which is hers) but no one has told him this yet. I can totally understand why she wants to leave. Eric is very stubborn and independent. Hazel has been losing her eyesight, sheís almost totally blind now. And Eric, though he has been very active for an 85 year old, heís not strong enough to look after her. Hazel wants to move into a home, where she wonít have to worry about so many things. Sheís been wanting to for a while, but Eric wonít hear of it.

Heís being very unrealistic about what he can do Ė he wants to go out and do all these things on Friday, but really heís going to need to be in care for a few weeks. He just doesnít know when to slow down. He had a small stroke last year, and he started slowing down a bit after that. Slowing down for Eric means that he cancelled the trip to South America but kept travelling around Aotearoa, taking up new hobbies, organic gardening, bee-keepingÖ

Itís been quite a shock the last couple of years, to see that his body is deteriorating. I think part of me though heíd keep going forever. Heís always been so fit and strong. Heís been vegetarian for 79 years, and heís into raw foods and herbal remedies. Heís been involved in everything from peace activism and environmentalism to journalism and mechanics. Heís an amazing guy. Iím proud that he is my grandfather.

Iím so scared of losing him. My biggest fear in the world is losing people. People going away. People dying. My grandmother died two weeks before my third birthday. I think that most of my emotional problems can be traced back to either the abuse or to my grandmother dying. I wish Iíd had longer to get to know her.

During the poetry workshop I did last year we had to do an exercise called ďSyllabic Ancestors.Ē We had to write a letter to a grandparent or great-grandparent, in syllabics (each line has the same number of syllables). I decided to write a letter to my grandmother, and I talked to my parents about her a lot while I was writing the poem. I found out we had so much in common. She was probably a lesbian. She suffered from depression. It sounds as though she had a similar temperament to me. While I wrote the poem I listened to Bachís concerto for two violins. It was her favourite piece of music, and we played it at her funeral.

Concerto for two women

I am grateful. Itís hard to
explain but these notes joyful
and solemn, express for me
our irregularities.

Itís beautiful isnít it
sky through lashes blurred by tears
the bump bump of a small chin
against a shoulder as two
walk through September rain: You
would appreciate these things.

I wonder if it is your
shy voice leading me, a thread
stitched through music. Would you be
shocked to see this dyke short hair
and matching short sharp dyke words?
(well someoneís got to say it)
I hope you know why I break
open all our silences
I dance for us both tonight.

May the day come when the whole
universe stops to listen
as one of seven wonders
is alive for the first time
born of these two violins.

*

I have less in common with my other grandmother. Sheís been very frail since before I was born. She reads Womenís Weekly and keeps up to date with which celebrities have had whose babies. I donít really have so much in common with her. And yet, the thought of her dying scares me. I feel as though I never really bothered to get to know her. I found her frustrating when I was younger. She was always so frail, and I always used to get guilt tripped about how I had to go and visit her because it might be her last Christmas. Then the next year it was always going to be her last Christmas again. I felt as though she was dying my whole life. I got sick of grieving for her.

Now sheís in a home, and sheís a lot healthier, and I get on with her better too. I guess Iím a bit older and I relate to her differently. Sheís a tough wee thing, thatís for sure. I think sheís 88 now, and sheís been through a hell of a lot during her life. I respect her more, now that I know some of the things sheís survived.

*

Sometimes Iím so scared of losing people that I push them away rather than risk them leaving me.

*

He says this is the worst thing that has ever happened. And it is.
Please he says. Please.

But you canít. Because it would be going back to leaving him.
You prepared yourself to leave him for years. It took such a long time.

It took years of listening to him leaving you, knowing that he wouldnít.
All that leaving.
All that is left is the leaving.

- from The Boyfriends by Jenny Bornholdt

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:28 PM

April 19, 2003

Ecoqueerís quest for an ecological sex life

Another recycled blog, brought to you by the Easter Holiday Period. This article was originally intended for some VUWSA publication or other which may or may not have appeared but I donít know cos I tend to avoid campus as much as possible.

When someone asked me to write an article on ďecosex,Ē my mind was filled with images of people trying to recycle condoms... Yuck! Not a very appealing prospect. I thought the article sounded pretty crazy, but Iíll try anything once (except incest, and folk dancing) so I decided to give it a go.

I started doing some research on the internet. I didnít find any Condom Recycling Schemes, but I did find some sobering statistics. In the west we dispose of more than 300 million condoms a year. Most get flushed down the toilet, and eventually end up in the oceans. They float around choking fish, and massing together in dense reefs (due to a phenomenon called ďlike aggregationĒ). A few years ago a huge condom reef, two miles long, was discovered drifting in the direction of Antarctica.

Ecosex Rule Number 1: think of the poor dolphins, and be careful how you dispose of used condoms. Whatís more, vegans beware, many condoms contain animal products! In fact, many forms of contraception involve animal products or animal testing, and most seem to have a negative impact on the environment. Birth control pills lead to increased hormones being flushed down the toilet and ending up in streams (causing sex changes in fish) and in water supplies (this may be contributing to declining fertility in men). But surely contraception is the lesser evil? The world is overpopulated as it is, and the last thing the environment needs is more babies growing up to be resource hungry consumers.

Perhaps we should all join VHEMT, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Members feel that humans are a threat to the health of the planet, and the species should be phased out. ďWhen every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth's biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory." Unfortunately, the idea doesnít seem to be catching on very fast. I still cling to the idea that people are part of nature, and there must be some way we can coexist with the rest of it. And anyway, VHEMT donít seem to be against sex, just breeding, so weíd still need to find somewhere to throw our condoms in the meantime. Those reefs could be floating around long after the extinction of humans.

I decided to seek advice from other sources. Greenpeace have put together a guide to ďGetting it on for the good of the planet.Ē Suggestions include using accessories made from natural, sustainable substances (rather than PVC and vinyl), and making sure any fruit used for intimate purposes is GE free. All good stuff, but the ideas seem somewhat superficial. They are token gestures that donít require a radical change in our behaviour. I wanted to uncover the radical politics of ecosex.

Ah, politics. Surely the Green Party must have a policy on sex? Well, I couldnít find anything about the actual deed. But the Greens support Prostitution Law Reform, and they have a Sexual Orientation Policy Ė Celebrating a Rainbow Nation. Green sex seems to be a glorious celebration of diversity and freedom from discrimination. (I hope, in between being empowered, developed and adequately resourced, we still have time to shag).

Ecofeminists also celebrate the diversity of our sexualities, but they take it a step further. At least I think they do. I got a bit lost halfway through an essay. I think this particular ecofeminist was saying that we should all be in tune with the sacred cycles of life. Sex must be a part of the sacred cycle. If we misuse it, sex can cause destruction, but used with due reverence, it can bring increased energy and unity with all other forms of life. Sex is an important need, a way of bonding within a group and finding harmony with nature. We should all have sacred ritualised sex with lots of people at exactly the right moment in the lunar cycle. Or something like that...

I was starting to get confused, so I decided to take a different approach to my research. I wanted to find out the distinctive characteristics of Sex With Environmentalists. After extensive interviews, and hours of, ahem, Research, I drew the following conclusions. Environmentalists tend to be more hairy. They donít recycle condoms, but they do seem to be into celebrating diversity and grooving with lunar cycles. And is the sex better? Well, it seems to be more deep and meaningful. And many Environmentalists donít eat animal products. Whatís that got to do with sex, you ask? Take it from me. Vegans taste better.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:39 AM

April 18, 2003

Instructions for how to enjoy spring

1. First you must plant daffodils in the gutters and cracks between buildings Ė start this in June.

2. In July, start wearing summer clothes Ė it is important to experience the true meaning of cold.

3. Acquire a pair of ducks Ė you can keep them in a bathtub on the roof (hens can be substituted for ducks).

4. A pregnant sheep is also important Ė you can tether it to the bottom of the steps and bring it lettuces to eat.

5. Arrange a religious festival, preferably celebrating a brutal murder.

6. Bake hot bread rolls with fruit and spices Ė decorate these with grim symbols of death and torture.*

7. Arrange sponsorship from a large corporation (the confectionery industry is recommended).

8. Start the advertising campaign at least two months in advance.

9. Bury yourself in a cool dark place.

10. Wait.

* Aspects of this blog were inspired by Giles

In search of a ring

Where are all the good blogrings hidden? Now that I have left the comforts of Xanga far behind, Iím ringless. But after extensive searching all I have been able to find is a Keanu Reeves fan blogring (oh puh-leeeeze, tell me itís a joke) and a blogring for queer knitters. Oh yeah, and lots of Buffy blogrings, but Iím scared that if I joined any of them, Iíd get eaten alive by purists because Iím not a real Buffy fan. Iíve only seen one episode. (Will someone please invite me over to watch more Buffy?) Where are all the chocoholic blogrings? The Kim Hill fan blogrings? The Bisexual Anarchist Sunday School Teachers Unite Blogrings? Whatís the internet coming to, I ask you?

Not sure if I should put a warning in here or not. The next part of the blog deals with sexual abuse, but I donít actually describe events, just the emotions caused by those events.

%&$# itís cold!

Suddenly winter. Again. Whatís with that?

And my life seems to be caving in around me. Again. Iím going to try not to write the (second) longest blog entry in the world, but believe me, I could. But I donít want to bore you. I feel as though, on an emotional level, Iíve got third degree burns all over, and the slightest touch is excruciating. And all of a sudden all these people from the past are reappearing, and slapping me on the back, and I canít work out if theyíre completely oblivious to the agony they are causing me.

On Saturday I saw the guy who sexually abused me when I was a child. I have only just begun to deal with my feelings, and the wound is still raw. Similar things have happened with other guys since then, and I ran into two of them as well. I felt like crawling into a hole and hibernating until my life was over.

ďThe long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be so pervasive that itís sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly how the abuse affected you. It permeates everything: your sense of self, your intimate relationships, your sexuality, your parenting, your work life, even your sanity. Everywhere you look you see its effects. As one survivor explained: Itís like those pictures I remember from Highlights for Children magazine. The bicycle was hidden in a tree, a banana was growing from someoneís ear, and all the people were upside-down. The caption underneath said ĎWhatís wrong with this picture?í But so many things were disturbed and out of place, it was often easier to say, ĎWhatís right with this picture?íĒ
- from the Courage to Heal.

My first sexual experience was non-consensual. Yeah, that fucks around with your sexuality. Sex was about other peopleís needs. It was about pain and guilt and disgust. It was about fear.

But it wasnít just my sexuality that got messed up. My self-esteem was left in shreds. I was only good for giving sexual pleasure to other people. I had no control, no right to say no. I lost confidence in my ability to do anything, to achieve anything. I hated myself. I hated myself for doing something so awful that I made him do this to me.

I hated my body. Most of the time I felt numb, except in my stomach, which ached. I felt nauseous all the time. I started missing school and slipping behind. I hated my body for bleeding every month and reminding me of how he made me bleed.

I still hate myself. I still get scared to speak, even to friends. I still feel as though I have no right to say no, to anything. I still get nausea, and stomach aches that seem to have no physical cause.

He made me do something I didnít want to, and yet Iím the one whoís punished for years afterwards. How unfair is life?

But I said I wasnít going to write another longest blog entry in the world. In fact, I wasnít even going to write this much. Hmmmm. Well, thatís my life at the moment, take it or leave it. Iím going to try and write find something more entertaining to fill in the rest of this entry.

I just went to the most intense poetry society meeting I have every experienced, and I want to write about that but I donít know where to start, so I wonít.

Punsters deserve to be drawn and quoted

Since itís too cold for sunbathing, I bring you the incomprehensive list of Fiís Favourite Puns.

A backward poet writes inverse.
Practice safe eating - always use condiments.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.
Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.
When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
A calendar's days are numbered.
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

By this stage I am rolling around on the floor giggling, and everyone else is giving me strange looks. There are some really bad puns out there. Be thankful I brought you the edited highlights.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:24 AM

April 16, 2003

Winter

Most of all, I remember the rain. Dark smudges of macrocarpa, and the mountain dissolving into white. In the garden, fat droplets gathering on the tips of branches, and bruised petals clinging to the grass. Inside, warm light, and the sound of the rain clattering on the roof.

Then, it seemed as if winter stole back overnight. The lawn was frozen, the sun barely reached above the horizon. Sparrows huddled together, perfectly still, like stone cherubs with their numb fingers thrust under their armpits.

Even in winter the garden was beautiful. There were camellias flowering, witch hazel and wintersweet, and rows of paperwhites beside the driveway. But everything was so still, a world sculpted from ice.

And at the centre of it all, something changed inside me. The temperature of my blood dropped, the breath froze inside my lungs. I moved through an eternal winter. Even the rain was as still as ice.

Poetry

I spent the last of my overdraft funds on ďSummerĒ by Jenny Bornholdt. For those of you who arenít from Aotearoa and havenít heard of Jenny, she is (according to the back of the book) one of New Zealandís most accomplished and widely read poets.

The poems in this collection donít have quite the same shivers down the spine quality of her earlier work, but they are nonetheless very satisfying. In some ways ďSummerĒ is more interesting than some of her earlier books.

Jenny has taken to using rhyme in some of her poems. I tend to have an allergic reaction to rhyme, but in most cases Jenny manages to pull it off. There were one or two moments when I struggled with what felt like a forced rhyme.

Most of the book is about the Summer Jenny spent in Menton, in the South of France, on a literary fellowship. I felt the most successful part of the book was the first section, poems about the previous summer, ďthe summer that wouldnít go,Ē when Jennyís father was dying. The poems in this section are beautiful and moving. ďPastoralĒ is particularly touching (We watched all night / and just as colour / leaked into the sky / all light left him / and day rolled up and / over us).

I still think ďBeing a PoetĒ is delightful. Another favourite is the six page poem ďConfessional.Ē

Reading over that part of the poem, sitting in the ancient
green deckchair outside the writing room in the shade

of the early morning, I look up and down he comes
again, as if summoned (hey, how about that, I would say

if I were American). About ten rungs down, he stops
and I imagine takes in the view of the soft, still

Mediterranean Ė one of the boys said this morning It looks
like you could get a white crayon and draw all over it -

then he reached for the red T-shirt slung over his shoulders
and it fell, down through the circle of the ladder likeÖ

like what? Like a red T-Shirt falling down the inside
of a crane. Someone on the ground is whistling.

*

While I was curled up with Summer I was inspired to start a poemÖ and anotherÖ Yay! The drought has ended. I can still write poetry.

Jenny sometimes featured in my psychotic episodes, which is kind of weird. Gawd, I donít know if I should be writing this, Iíd be mortified if it ever got back to her. I think it was probably a mix of things going on in my subconscious. Firsly, I really admire Jenny, and I think I felt guilty about this, I think I felt I liked her ďtoo much.Ē And secondly, writing has become so important to me, and I started to feel paranoid about ďlosingĒ it somehow. So these things got churned over in my subconscious, and I started to believe that Jenny (along with other poets) was angry with me, because she could read my thoughts, and she was going to take away my voice. Something like that anyway. Iím carefully using the past tense here, because Iím optimistic that nothing like that is going to happen again. And Iím sure Jenny isnít really angry with me, I have it from a reliable friend that she is a truly lovely person. Pity she went and got married, children and everything. Three of them now. Gosh.


tat.JPG

This is a picture of the tattoo on my back. Someone asked to use the bird picture from my old blog as the basis for a tattoo, and I started daydreaming about getting a new one. But Iím not sure what, or where, and I canít afford it right now. Sigh. But I like to daydream about it anyway.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 04:17 PM

April 15, 2003

It's so hard to dream up good titles for entries

About that picture over there *pointing to the right.*
I painted that about a year ago. Itís called ďself-portrait as madness,Ē but it doesnít really look like me, because Iím not very good at portraits. But Greg OíBrien said it was a particularly strong image, ďevocative - delicate yet somehow robust.Ē And he should know, cos he writes books about art.

blog addictions

Itís funny how attached you can come to your daily to your daily dose of blogs. Funny how much you can care about people youíve never met. Iíve been worrying heaps about Salam Pax. Is he just silent because the internet is down in Bagdad, or is he hurt, or did his blog get him into trouble? Likewise, I have been worrying about some of my Xanga friends, who are going through some difficult times.

And I miss my daily shot of Life on Earth

Tips for life on earth when there is no Life on Earth

Pass the time by stranding kittens up trees. If you run out of kittens, move on to puppies. Practice your maniacal laugh.

Develop an addiction for drinking chocolate with kahlua. Spend the days in an alcoholic stupor and caffeine and sugar induced mania. Simultaneously.

Make a time machine and travel back to a time in your life before there was Life on Earth. At least you wonít know what youíre missing.

ďLife-Giver, Pain-Bearer, Love-Maker.Ē

When I mention to someone that Iím a Sunday School teacher, I always make it very clear that Iím not part of any old church. Iím part of St Andrewís on the Terrace, the one where the minister is a lesbian, Lloyd Geering is the resident theologian, and thereís a big ďNo War on IraqĒ banner out the front of the church. Iím not a bible-basher. Iím not a fundamentalist or a charismatic. Iím not a conservative homophobe. I donít bite. Much.

Why do I always feel as though I need to justify my spirituality? Perhaps for the same reasons I feel I must defend my sexuality. Layers of stereotypes cloud both identities.

Christianity. What springs into your mind when you hear the word? Iím usually very wary when I find out that someone is a Christian. Ah yes, I think, but what flavour? And then I make a big show of discussing my sexual preferences and political ideologies to see if I can scare them off.

When I was a naÔve little third former I had a crush on a Christian girl, and I followed her everywhere, including to church. Somehow I got sucked into the Jump for Jesus brigade, and things rapidly deteriorated. In retrospect I often think that becoming a Christian was my teenage rebellion phase Ė it was the only think I could do that would shock my parents. The queer thing was a relief, at least they could understand it.

I tried really hard to be a fundamentalist. I prayed every day for the Holy Spirit to help me to have faith. I tried really hard to believe everything, even the bits about people going to hellÖ but to know avail.

There, now you know. Iím a Failed Fundie. Can you ever forgive me?

So what do I believe now? Not in any kind of hell, except the war and pollution and injustice we create ourselves. Not in a god with a beard sitting somewhere up there, separate from us. Not in a god who punishes us. Certainly not in a god who allows children to ďinheritĒ sin. Not in a god who condemns us for loving people of the wrong gender. Not in a perfect paradise at the beginning and a perfect paradise at the end (because that gives us permission to trash the world we live in now).

(Why do I feel I must begin by listing all the things I donít believe? Perhaps Iím worried that youíre judging me by the same myths that are ingrained in my own mind).

I do believe that there is more to life than the physical, more than we can scientifically understand. I believe that there is a creative energy, a self organising power, a life force that infuses all matter, all plants, animals, and that, in people, becomes consciousness. And the wonder of being human is that we give God a voice, shape and form. When we hug someone, we are Godís arms. When we write music, God is creating music.

Thatís what I believe, anyway. I think I put it better in this poem that I wrote.

Creed
(for Fiona Farrell)

I believe in a shower of fire

I believe that the fire explodes, condenses, flows, changes

becomes stars, and the spaces between stars

becomes water, stone, leaf and bird

I believe the fire flows through our nervous systems
becomes nucleic acids and atoms, blood, sweat
heart, lungs, mind

becomes music and poetry, laughter and tears

and becomes aware of itself

I believe in a shower of fire

but is that God?

I believe that in each of us a spark dances
but sometimes we pour wet sand on the flame.

I believe that sometimes we hurt each other
and ourselves

but is that sin?

I believe there are people
who do not give in to fear, apathy or excuses

but are they saints?

I believe
the Son lived
(hard to deny a life
so well documented).

I believe he spoke about justice
and lived his life for others

but was he the Son of God?

I believe he gave his mind and heart
to the call within, a call to free people from fear
to guide us in the ways of peace

I believe his life can teach us something
about God.

I believe in a shower of fire

I believe the fire burns and burns and burns

but is that life everlasting?

I believe.

*

(Once I showed this poem to a friend and he thought that the fire was symbolic of hell. Itís not, in case youíre wondering).

I kinda miss Xanga

You guys have been so good to me. I transferred all my archives to stonesoup, and painstakingly transferred all the comments, one at a time. It was overwhelming, reading them all at once like that. I had tears streaming down my face, and then moments later I was laughing. It means so much to me, knowing I have such amazing friends scattered around the globe.

Cheesiness aside, ya better keep visiting me in my new home! And for goodness sake, someone comment on here, itís mighty quiet.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:22 AM

April 13, 2003

chocolate therapy

Libby bought three chocolate bars, and ate them one after the other. She was crouching in the doorway of the church, a green coat stretched down to cover her bare knees. She was almost oblivious to the taste of the chocolate, the stinging drops of rain hurled by the wind.

Why did he have to be so nice? The question was banging around inside her head like a trapped animal. Why did he? Why nice?

*

His voice had stopped her in her tracks before she caught sight of him. For a moment, she was confused. She didnít know whether to run Ė towards him, or away from him?

Libby spotted a couple of friends and with relief she headed towards them. Chattering away at the back of the crowd, she could turn her back to the stage and escape, almost. His voice was dangerous, she knew, but not as dangerous as his eyes. Why here? Why now?

After the speeches Libby pushed her way to the middle of the crowd. She caught a glimpse of him, the red flash of his shirt. He was talking to one of the MPs, a group of reporters crowded around him. Libby ducked behind a tall man in a suit. Her hands were shaking as she pretended to look for something in her bag.

She wanted to break through the crowds, run down the streets, lock herself in her room, the safety of her bed. She wanted to cry. She wanted him to see her.

Libby crept a few metres closer. He was walking away from the reporters. He was going to walk past her. She looked away, pretended to search for her friends in the crowd. When she glanced back, he was looking at her. His head was turned slightly to one side, and he was smiling slightly. Libby froze. His expression made her skin crawl. She smiled back at him, and then looked away. Too late. He was coming over.

ďHow are you,Ē he said. Libby shrugged, and tried not to look at him.

ďAlright,Ē she said. She was almost overwhelmed by the urge to fling her arms around his neck, to ask him for forgiveness. He said something else that she didnít quite catch, so she kept chatting about trivialities, her voice a little too bright.

Suddenly another reporter was at his shoulder, calling him away. He smiled at her again, and then he was gone.

*

Libby finished the last chocolate bar. It was so cold the fat barely melted in her mouth. She shoved the wrappers in her pocket and headed off down the street. The rain was icy against her cheeks but she was still too numb to notice. She couldnít push his smile out of her mind. The question repeated itself in time with her footsteps.

Why me? Why me?

Posted by Fionnaigh at 03:43 PM

April 12, 2003

Nau mai, haere mai

Kia ora e hoa ma, welcome to my little spoonful of Stonesoup.

What do you think of the colour scheme? Iím really not sure about the pea greenÖ Iím learning to play around with Movable Type, and Iím not very good at it yet, so everything takes ages.

Props to Kim for setting up this space, and for tolerating panicked phone calls, also to Bec for indirect email support and useful suggestionsÖ but especially sparkly props to Iona, for her endless supply of cool ideas, support, hours of amusement (especially the part when we realised the heater was blasting cold air into the already frigid downstairs) and chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate.

Ooooooh guess what?! Thanks to Iona I have been initiated. I am no longer a Buffy virgin.

ďWell,Ē she says turning to me before the last frame has faded. ďOpinion?Ē Good grief woman, that was my first ever episode, I havenít had time to digest yetÖ

Oh all right. I liked it. I donít think I fully understand why so many of my friends are obsessed with BuffyÖ but that could be because itís been so long since I watched TV that I find it hard to imagine being obsessed with anything on the box.

I think I need to watch more Buffy before I comment extensively.

Last night we had our Passover Seder, which was so much fun. I made zucchini stuffed with ground matzos (unleavened breads) and a cake with ground matzos, nuts, fruit and chocolate. The kids each had a piece to say, and one of them kept talking about how ďon this night we eat unlevelled breadÖĒ Then we sent them off on a treasure hunt.

The best part was sitting around drinking wine with the Sunday school parents. I really enjoy their company, and I donít see them much, except when theyíre rostered on to help out on a Sunday. I had heaps of fun and laughed till my stomach ached.

And then I went to a Ger Warming Party. A friend of mine has built a ger (Mongolian nomadic tent, sometimes known as a yurt) in his backyard. Itís really nice inside, itís round, with branches bound together and a calico lining, very cosy. I wouldnít mind having one in our backyard!

Today I joined a few other bedraggled peace activists on a march and chalk mission through the city. It was fun, despite the rain. More about that tomorrow.

What with all the excitement of new blogs and learning about web friendly colours and watching Buffy and matzos and gers, I havenít had time to dream up a proper entry, so Iím going to stick in an extract for a story Iíve just finished.

The Rubbish Bin Baby

Then, on Friday, William brought home a baby. I got home before him and I was sitting in the kitchen, eating peanut brownies, when William staggered in with the baby.

It was fat and squishy like a lump of dough, but much dirtier. Itís skin was covered in brown smeary marks and it had bits of food and scraps of paper tangled in its hair. And it was crying. Its eyes were screwed up like the twisty ends of lolly wrappers and its mouth was open wide like a garbage disposal unit, but three times as loud.

Ruth must have heard the racket, because she came flying down the stairs two at a time.

ďWhat theÖĒ she shrieked, and then she trailed off and took a deep breath. ďWilliam, what on earth are you doing with that baby?Ē

ďI found it,Ē said William, and he smiled. The baby screamed. Ruth sat down hard on the bottom step.

*

ďIt was lying beside a rubbish bin.Ē William was telling his story for the millionth time that evening. He practically had to shout above the babyís wailing. ďIt was lying beside a rubbish bin and it was dirty and it was crying.Ē

Claire was bouncing the baby up and down on her knee, and making shushing noises. The baby wasnít paying any attention. Its screams were getting louder and its face was turning red, like a tomato ripening before our eyes.

ďYou donít just find a baby. People donít just leave babies beside rubbish bins. Not in real life.Ē Ruth was flicking through the yellow pages, looking for some kind of Lost Baby Emergency Centre. ďMaybe we should take it down to the police station.Ē

ďItís not a criminal, itís a baby.Ē William glared at Ruth. Ruth glared at William. The baby screamed.

Half an hour later we were all lined up around the reception desk at the police station.

[Want more? Sorry, but I have issues about posting my work in a public space Ė so youíll have to give me your email address and I'll send you the rest of the story]

Posted by Fionnaigh at 09:47 PM

Ecoqueer has moved

Yup, Iíve moved. Beautiful Monsters can be found at Stonesoup.

Itís not that Xanga hasnít been good to meÖ butÖ I want to be able to link to blogs that arenít on Xanga. I want people who arenít on Xanga to be able to comment on my blog. I want all sorts of things that Xanga canít offer (at least not for free). And my lovely friend Iona has provided a solution.

Iíll still read all the sites Iíve been reading on Xanga. I still love yíall! I hope to see you over at Stonesoup.

Shalom,

Fionnaigh.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:02 AM

April 07, 2003

Stories

I have a confession to make.

I never read Where the Wild Things Are when I was a child. Iíve never admitted this to anyone. Of course, I knew about the wild things. Iíve seen the toys, and the posters in friendís houses, and the references in cute dyke moviesÖ but I read the book for the first time this evening. And then I phoned my parents and demanded to know why Iíd been so cruelly deprived. They could provide no excuses. It was blatant neglect. If I fail as a childrenís writer, itís all their fault!

Other stories

Damien Wilkins came to our class today. Heís so funny! I think Iíll have to apply for his course, if only because he makes me laugh. And Iíve heard rumours about their folio partiesÖ

(Iona, I know youíre reading this, did I include Chemistry in the list of books you should read?)

Damien has written a picture book, which he read to us today. Itís so funny, and his sister has done the most gorgeous illustrations. A books she illustrated, The Immigrants, is a finalist in the Childrenís Book Awards. Anyway, her agent sent Damienís story to a publisher, and he shared the rejection letter with us. It was really interesting. I get excited when publishers attach a short scrawled note, but this was a really in depth letter, and very constructive. The kind of specific feedback writers crave. I hope he doesnít take on all her suggestions though Ė I like it the way it is, and Iím sure they can find a publisher. Iím just not totally convinced about the moonÖ

Poetry

Went to a karaoke party on Saturday, way in the middle of nowhere Ė I didnít know you could drive for so long in Wellington. Didnít sing, not at the party, the karaoke didnít extend to Charlotte Yates and other kiwi chicks with guitars, but we had fun singing in the car on the way home. Anyway, someone was talking about the way the news was read, and it reminded me of this poem by Dennis Glover, and I was going to recite it on the way home, but I forgot, so here it is nowÖ

Here Is the News

When the BBC announced
The end of the world,
It was done without haste,
It was neutrally, gentlemanly done,
It was untinged with distaste,
It was almost as if the BBC had won.

And more about poetry

And about how I havenít been writing any lately, and Iím angsting about it. In fact, Iím angsting about lots of things. I think too much. I want too much. Want want want. I want to finish some of my short stories. I want to write more poems. I want to finish my native plants course. I want to learn te reo. I want to write for Indy media. I want to do more work out at the marae. I want to finish my Supporting Families training. I want to learn cello. Want want want!

Iím trying to accept the fact that I canít do everything. I may have been superhuman when I was nine, but evidently the magic powers have worn off. Dammit.

Iím angsting about blogging too. I never seem to have anything funny or clever to say. Iím worried that Iíll sort of dry up, and people will stop reading, and then what would I do?

I think I worry too much.

Bitter herbs

All the Sunday School families are getting together on Friday for a Passover dinner. A proper Seder, with Haroset and Matzos and everything. We each have something to bring, and Iím bringing the bitter herbs, to remind us of the pain and suffering of the Israelites when they were slaves. We eat them and remember people around the world who are suffering. And after the meal, weíre going to have a treasure hunt!

The soy milk wars

One of my flatmates has suddenly got this Big Thing about how we have to buy our own food, and write our names on it so people donít use the Wrong Food by mistake. This is incredibly annoying for all sorts of reasons, but the worst part is the soymilk. Weíve had lots of people coming and going through the flat recently, and at times there have been eight or nine boxes of soymilk open in the fridge. There isnít much room for anything else. Iím starting to worry that things are rotting in the back of the fridge but we canít see them because thereís a great wall of soymilk.

Sex (and teachers)

Perhaps Iím not getting enough of it. Or perhaps it really is an interesting side effect of the drugs. The first anti-depressants I took had the opposite effect, and I was not impressed. Anyway, whatever it is, my libido has definitely increased.

A running theme throughout my life has been the crushes on teachers thing. One year in primary school, I didnít just give an apple for the teacherÖ I gave her a cake, and a card, and a poem, and a christmas cracker, and a bunch of flowers, andÖ

I know Iím not alone in having crushes on teachers. I used to get all embarrassed about it and never tell anyone. And then I found out that the entire male population of the school, and some of the girls as well, had a crush on the same English teacher I was adulating.

I donít know why teachers. I think itís partly my underlying fear of real relationships with sub-consciously leads me to become attracted to anyone who is chronically unavailable. But itís probably also due to the fact that so many of them are so damn cute, and enthusiastic, and sparkly, and wearing skimpy skirts. There was one memorable teacher who wore this thin white cotton T-shirt with a zip that went all the way downÖ

Thatís the difference. Iíve always had masses of crushes, but Iím not used to being attracted to people in such a physical way (the zip down T-shirt was an exception). It kind of worries me. I feel like Iím being superficial all of a sudden, or something. I think it conflicts with the moral principles Iíve had ingrained from an early age. I feel kindaÖ guilty about it. Iím not doing it on purpose, honest!

It must be the drugs. Thatís my story, and Iím sticking to it.

XXX (Sex) XXX

I think the Eroticablogapalooza suggestion was my idea in the first place, and then someone else seemed to grab hold of the idea and run with itÖ But Iím not sure I was actually serious. I think Iíd be too scared, and embarrassed, and a million other things.

But it did lead to the idea of having an anonymous blog, which I think would be really interesting. There are so many things you could experiment with. And I think it would be even cooler to have a communal blog, and give the password to lots of people so anyone could post their anonymous stuff on the bloganonymous. Whadyareckon?

Ya basta!

Not a battle cry. Just a gentle note to myself. Should stop now. Should be trying to write childrenís stories. Bad Fi, slap slap (speaking of slapping, my teacher slapped me across the legs with a scarf or some such because I confessed to having reservations about the Kite Rider. Someone please read it and tell me what you think)!

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:00 AM

April 04, 2003

Los rios

Footsteps at the back of the house. There is a grumble in the pipes, and then the hiss and patter of the shower. Silence for a long time, then Ria bursting through the door. There is something precarious about the look in her eyes, her smile too bright.

Michael is stirring garlic in a frying pan, his back to her. She blazes across the room, chattering about the night, the clients, how busy the streets were. This town is full of freaks, you wouldnít believe how some people get off, playing dead, singing show tunes, fucking freaks. Michael laughs with her, and she comes to stand behind him, her arms slipped around his waist. There was this one guy, he wanted to rub himself against my cheeks, cum all over my face. He said my skin was so smooth he couldnít bear it.

She is shaking with laughter, out of control. Michael turns around, Ria, Ria, sweetheart, he slips his arms around her, and her laughter has collapsed into sobbing, cries that seem to be torn from within her. Oh Ria, you donít need to, itís not fair, he wraps himself around her, bundles her up, rocks her till the sobs stop jarring her body. Shhhh, shhh, itís ok sweetheart, itís ok.

Mattius wavers in the corner, wondering whether to reach out or make himself invisible. He moves over to the stove, and takes the burnt garlic off the element, stares out the window. The sun is somewhere above the horizon, somewhere behind the clouds.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:58 AM

April 02, 2003

Falling Pigs

Quote of the day

"People do not Ďhaveí diseases, which are really descriptive mechanisms created by contemporary medicine. People have stories, and the stories are narratives of their lives, their relationships, and the way they experience an illness."
- Arthur Kleinman.

So far Iíve learnt how to fall overÖ

Iím really enjoying Aikido classes. Unfortunately, Iím not very good at it. Iím the least experienced person in the class, and I spend most of the time dancing around trying to work out which foot Iím supposed to fall back over, or which hand I am supposed to use to deflect an attack.

But, I kind of figure Iím being useful. See, if someone really good attacks you, even if you donít do quite the right move they know what theyíre supposed to be doing and so they fall in the right direction. If you attack someone really good, you donít even have to think about which foot goes where, you just fall over. So, what I figure is, that Iím good practice for other people, because if they only practised with really good people it would be too easy. Because I make lots of mistakes, I keep them on their toes. So Iím doing them a wonderful service!

Or something like that.

An interesting side effect of Aikido is that it seems to make me crave cool clean water and good wholesome food. I think itís a combination of vigorous exercise, and getting in touch with oneís body and spirit. See, when youíre really in touch with your body and spirit, junk food really doesnít seem that appealing. Fortunately the effect only lasts for a few hours, so by the next morning Iím gulping down the drinking chocolates again.

Iím infatuated with a small grey pig

Olivia is my new hero. Sheís fantastic!

"In the morning, after she gets up
and moves the cat

and brushes her teeth
and combs her ears

and moves the cat,

Olivia gets dressed.

She has to try on
everything."

She loves art galleries, but she doesnít get Jackson Pollock. And at bedtime she bargains until eventually she gets three bedtime stories. She kind of reminds me of my own childhood!

Golly

After I wrote the longest blog entry in the world, I took some bits of it and turned them into a formal letter and sent it to a couple of people, with a cover letter from someone at the womenís health collective. Well, for once people actually took some notice. Today I had a meeting with four people (team leaders or managers) from mental health services. It was a bit daunting, but they were all really friendly, and supportive.

SoÖ to cut a long story shortÖ

They will be talking to the staff member that I had problems with, and she wonít be working in the crisis house any more (though sheíll keep working in another part of the organisation, if she takes on board their comments).

They are going to do some more training around self-harm issues, and take up some of the suggestions I made. Theyíve also invited the womenís health collective to take part in some trainingÖ for free!

Theyíre going to ensure that their staff members let clients know that they are available to talk and offer support.

They want me to come along and talk at one of their staff meetings.

Theyíre going to talk to the police and the emergency department and try and put some better guidelines in place.

Theyíre going to address the time delays.

Theyíre going to make sure thereís a stash of soymilk at the house.

AndÖ they bought me a wheat free vegan lunch.

Yay! I feel as though Iíve achieved something. And I got a free lunch.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:57 AM

April 01, 2003

Cold

Itís freezing here. Well, ok, itís not actually freezing. Apparently itís 12 degrees Celsius, but Iím sure itís colder than that in our flat. Iíve resorted to thermal underwear, several layers of jerseys, winter stockings and a polar fleece jacket. And hot soup. I canít find my slippers. Iím still cold.

To make matters worse, I think Iím getting a cold too. I can never tell whether Iíve just got bad hayfever (which can cause everything from sore throats to headaches) or if Iím coming down with a virus. When I get hayfever it messes up my immune system so Iím more likely to get colds (and more allergies). This time itís probably because I ate dairy a few days ago, got hayfever, and then kept getting hayfever (because my immune system was struggling) and kept blaming it on other peopleís cats, when actually itís probably my own fault. Dammit.

Once upon a time

Iím scared of plot. This wouldnít be a huge problem, except that in a few weeks I have to hand in a collection of eight short stories. Eeeep. I still think of plot as something strange and magical that happens to other peopleÖ I have no idea how to acquire one myself.

Fiction sooo different to poetry and non-fiction. I think Iím chronically lacking in imagination. Even as a child, when we had to write stories in school, I either plagiarised the plots from other stories (usually Enid Blyton Ė I would change the fairies to elves or something) or wrote stories about how my parents and I walked up Mt Tarawera, complete with illustrations.

We have several writing exercises to do each week, and I spend most of the week staring at an empty page and getting more and more terrified. This week weíre doing stories which are made up entirely of dialogue. Like plot, dialogue is a device that scares me. Along with character development. And pretty much everything that differentiates fiction from poetry.

So why, you ask, why am I doing a fiction writing workshop? I have no idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Insert intelligent and entertaining political rant here _____________

Iíd really like to write something informative and intellectually stimulating and topical, but, well, I feel like shit and I think my brain may have frozen over.

Nevermind eprops, what I really need is hot lemon drinks and flowers and plenty of sympathy.

And tomorrow I have to meet with the manager and the team leader of the respite house, which is scary.

Think I should go to bed now.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:52 AM