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Lincoln Jaques – Wahine Wai

Profile Jaques LEP&W ANZ May 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021
Special edition featuring poets from Australia & New Zealand.

Lincoln Jaques holds a Master of Creative Writing, which centred on the noir fiction of Jean Patrick Manchette, Ted Lewis, David Goodis and Patricia Highsmith. His poetry, fiction and travel writing has appeared most recently in Tough Magazine, Noir Nation (forthcoming), Mother Mary Comes to Me: A Pop Culture Poetry Anthology, The Blue Nib, Mayhem, Poetry NZ Yearbook and Blackmail Press. He was a finalist in the 2018 NZ Emerging Poets. He lives in Auckland.


Wahine Wai*

In life—
it’s funny how we say “In life”
as if it’s an old comfortable coat—
In life she wanted to be near the water.
Always the water and without it, she
would start to become quiet, like
evenings when there’s nothing more to do
but slow down, running out of things
to say, becoming bored of the day
always waiting for another.

I asked her, “What would you like
to be when you die?”
She said, “What a strange question!”
But I knew she understood.
I took her to the water,
she swam, and I watched her,
how she looked as though she’d
reached home.

In life (here we go again) she
was an uncomfortable ghost.
She couldn’t move through walls
but she felt she could move through
water just as well. Water has no barriers;
you can enter, she told me once, and never
stop, going on and on, endlessly.

It’s true. One morning I awoke and
she was gone.  I went down to the sea
knowing she had picked up a shell
and was somewhere crossing the currents
her wake a silver thread visible only
by moonlight.

 

*Literally trans. from Teo Reo Māori = ‘Water Woman’.


This Last Equation

The day sinks beneath all waterlines.
Birds stay still in the trees; no wind.

Taste the silence. Sniff the fear.
Sitting immobile, touching the essence

of near-death. Backbone unhinges
ankle sinks into mud and guts.

In a half-dream, I return to my childhood
bedroom, visualising every detail.

The wallpaper; the Underwood with the
sheet strangling the spool, empty of letters.

The bed where several before
me have taken their last breath.

A finger of sun pressed across a King James.
I awake; someone sniffs beside me. A sob.

A greedy fly swirls round the crinkled
tin lid of tainted meat. Even its life means more.

We wait in that predestined peace, wait
for the siren to rip through. If I

stood up now I may just get to see
the first rays of sun in time.


Stari Grad

Twenty-Four years after the bombs stopped
we caught the bus from Hvar township
across the mountains to Stari Grad,
got lost at first and you talked to a man
hosing down the path in front of his shop;
the expression on his face that someone who
got off the bus talked to him in Hrvatski.

We made it into the town centre
where idle men smoked filterless Ronhills outside
cafés and women sold lavender from small stalls
along the waterfront that no one bought.

Finally we found Hektorović’s villa that took
all his life to build; he was still thinking of it on his deathbed.
There’s a reminder of this in the pool in the courtyard
where I watched a woman remove her shoe
dip her big toe into the water, her long naked
leg reflected in the green surface, the fish swimming
up from the deep to inspect the toes before quickly
losing interest.

You have to really look for it but there
above the waterline on the wall a skull and crossbones,
a reminder of our fleeting lives, how Hektorović himself
didn’t have enough time for writing poetry and building his
mansion. For it all got away from him in the end.

We walk back out, surrender our brochures
to the bored boy taking money at the door:
he has no memory of the war.
Out into the warm sun; it’s the end of summer
but the stones still hold the late morning heat.
We move towards the café, the safety of coffee.


© Lincoln Jaques