One Question Quiz
rata in the swamp

BooksSeptember 20, 2019

The Friday Poem: Pacing by Rata Gordon

rata in the swamp

A new poem by Waiheke poet Rata Gordon.


A deep bow to Neruda

It so happens I am sick of being a woman.
It happens that I walk into BP stations and supermarkets
greasy, swollen, like a cow made of soap,
losing my way in a field of placentas and pesticides.

The smell of vet clinics makes me retch.
All I want is to hear silence like stars and dew.
All I want is to see no more shopping bags, no sink holes,
no gear sticks, no flat whites, no fallen leaves.

It so happens that I am sick of my teeth and my underwear
and my thirst and my breath.
It so happens I am sick of being a woman.

Still, it would be wonderful
to frighten a barrister with a possum tail,
or push a monk into a swimming pool.
It would be great
to run through the streets with a water pistol filled with milk
shooting at windows until it started to rain.

I don’t want to go on chasing my lists,
clutching at mortgages and chia seed smoothies,
wide awake at night,
gnashing at the mosquitoes who are ruining my life,
and rearranging, controlling, flattening the sheets.

I don’t want so much uselessness.
I don’t want to go on as a panther
pacing a room,
collapsing in grief.

That’s why my emails, when they see me coming
with my bloodshot eyes, clutch each other
and scamper away like breathless mice,
leaving tracks of fine dust leading under the fridge.

It pushes me to certain beaches, to some oily rockpools,
to hostile hillsides that someone’s going to subdivide,
to meeting houses that smell like burning rubber,
and certain stormwater pipes thick with sludge.

There are silver invasive fish, and allergenic nuts
spilling from the taps in kitchens that I hate.
There are polystyrene balls
and billboards that should have been aborted.
There are black plastic bags full of mouldering bread
and used toothpicks, and wet wipes.

I float through it all, with my skin, my diaphragm,
my fury, letting it all slip off me.
I go through malls, and car yards, and public toilets
and ferry terminals and $2 shops with rubber bananas,
stick-on nails, decision dice, grow-your-own boyfriends,
silver wigs and plastic handcuffs
all waiting expectantly.


Poetry editor Ashleigh Young welcomes submissions to The Friday Poem at

Keep going!