Fiction    Reading Room    Memoir    Interview

Lines of Succession

History, the way it will saunter in
through the body’s unwary door
while bathing say, vague perhaps with absence,
or pondering consciousness – that strange transparency
Spinoza tells us veneers the world –
when you catch yourself holding your hand to your chin
the middle finger lifting so the nail taps the eye tooth,
and wham, you’re back in your father’s house –


It’s summer, there’s a river and a jacaranda tree.
He is sitting in front of the black balustrade
legs crossed, lean in his woven chair,
eyes horizon-high (remember though, they always saw
the traffic beneath the roses).
He is bright with enterprise, devising strategy –
how best build a jetty to accommodate tide,
how season a timbered hull?
His thumb and fourth finger support the jaw
and the sawn-off tip of his index
finger is held to his cheek-bone inches from the eye –
but it’s his mouth! It is parted just enough
so the middle finger flutters between his front teeth,
the nail tapping (you know exactly)
the pad rebounding, and after a while
the soft, ruminative bite.


Heralded by gesture – your father’s, yours,
(his dear presence) – you begin to consider
‘it’s bred in the bone’,
the deep intelligence of the body.
Surprise returns you to that most-forgotten land –
its ruined mountains – though small thoughts intrude too
(the bath’s grown cold, there are essays to assess,
photographs to post to a daughter in the north
of women with marled skin, statues of Eurydice,
Hera’s marmoreal arms).


But the word inhere keeps insisting on itself.
Like breath from a beloved’s lips, its zither passes over you
so you rise from the bath, draw a towel to the rib-
and-tingle of your frame and head for the computer
leaving drips, webbed footprints (gills? hooves?)
along the glimmering hall. Ah, History, your worn
thumb, still strumming away? Still printing? We are
where the hammer falls (more or less). Room though,
for manoeuvre.
Johanna Aitchison
Michele Amas
Angela Andrews
Sarah Barnett
David Beach
Ken Bolton
Jenny Bornholdt
Rachel Bush
Mary Cresswell
Stephanie De Montalk
Cliff Fell
Tom Fitzsimons
Brian Flaherty
David Geary
Bernadette Hall
Kerry Hines
Andrew Johnston
Therese Lloyd
Iggy McGovern
Mary Macpherson
Dora Malech
Vana Manasiadis
Emma Neale
Gregory O'Brien
Lucy Orbell
Zach Savich
Charlotte Simmonds
Marty Smith
Elizabeth Smither
Abby Stewart
Robert Sullivan
Jo Thorpe  
Cath Vidler
Louise Wallace
Ashleigh Young

Hosted by the New Zealand
Electronic Text Centre