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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023
Fishing with my father, poems by Anita Arlov.
Fishing with my father
My father reads Ivan Rebroff loves men.
He winces, wounded: who’s the voice now?
(I’m fourteen. Collect old 45s.)
So I mix him a cassette of Vallee, Bing,
Mercer, Fisher, Te Wiata.
Inia Te Wiata who carves in wood,
the Māori ‘Wanderer’ baritone, wins.
My father, displaced by war. Loss.
Sets sail from Polaris to the Southern Cross.
Slogs overtime in a factory racket
to bring home a fatter pay packet.
(Not a fish out of water.
Not quite so lethal.)
He’s dead against women pilots on planes.
Driving busses. Captain on vessels.
Baby in belly. Mood svings. Period.
Female is slave to the vomb. Seventeen,
I’m snipping his hair. Silvering hair.
(No cash for barbers.) Should I snip an ear,
make him bleed and heal, bleed and heal?
My mother whisks dressing – milk, vinegar, sugar –
for sliced lettuce salad. Fries fish, the cods
he caught. Sharp stab to the neck.
I flew here by jet.
Briefcase. Bob. Twenty-eight.
He soon might die. (Does.) My Dad.
He’s in his den, setting sinkers.
I watch his fisherman manufacture:
a sinker pressed into dampened sand,
liquid lead ladled in the space.
Whiz-spin of reel. Loop. Hook. Lure.
How can we talk? About the war?
In a stink long enough, you stop smelling stink.
Still, docked for a day in Lorient, France,
he mixes snuff (Evening in Paris,
Tabak from Turkey). Capsules it
in a glass cigarette. Top pocket, right.
Do I vant to see?
Blood (my blood) tracks proud, purple
over the backs of his calloused hands.
Knobbly fingers ease the stopper free.
First time. For me.
This crumbling musk. War’s mask.
Got to keep the boat afloat.
Eight weeks straight in a tin U-boat.
Bilge. Dirt. Sweat. Bot.
Cramped. Hot. Bunk. Rot.
Diesel. Chill. Torpedo. Kill.
Warning. Attack. Blood. Black.
Three out of four didn’t make it back.
I look at him. He looks at me.
Good night for fishing. Vant to come vith?
Under cellophane south island light
Shot my lover at Lake Manapouri. The lead-up was epic. Te
Wai Pounamu dreamed us up a boudoir diorama. Siren rata
sexed up the canopies. Lupins looped plush carpets of blush
purple & candied pink where we snoozed, flagged after Lord
of the Rings meanderings. Tui bird surround-sound sang us
awake. Cathedral peaks jazzed up a serene dreamy sky. The
glacier lake – all four arms – ours for the week on a detox diet
of ramble, no wifi, scared me sober with blue-skinned depth.
It’s all here, in default colour space. Look long enough, my
screen morphs into magic eye 3-D reality. The body of him
looms. His sockets are headlights GPSed on a beeline for me.
Note: Te Wai Pounamu (Māori) the South Island of Aotearoa /
New Zealand. The literal meaning is ‘water’ and ‘greenstone’,
from the presence of this stone here.
© Anita Arlov
Anita Arlov is the child of Croatian parents displaced after WW2. She lives in Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland. She writes poems and very short prose, hosts workshops and occasionally judges short form fiction. Anita grew up enjoying the cadence of language but didn’t begin writing till mid-life in response to the Canterbury earthquake in 2011. Anita has won the Divine Muses Poetry Competition, the NZ Flash Fiction Competition and has placed second in the Bath Flash Fiction Competition. She is widely anthologised, including Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa/New Zealand; Broadsheet; New Flash Fiction Review; takahē magazine; Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction.
She convened a team that ran the NZ Poetry Conference & Festival, a successful three-day celebration of all things poetry including vispo, wordcore, sung poems, cine-poetics and workshops, involving 200 poets and arts activists. For ten years she managed popular spoken word event Inside Out Open Mic for Writers. In 2022 she was selected an Ockham Collective Arts Resident. “I like to conflate arresting facts with fiction, memory and emotion. Once I get a fix on a tone, I dive in and commit to getting out alive.” – Anita Arlov