15 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Three Hummingbirds' by Janis Freegard

Three Hummingbirds

My mind is full of aspidistras. I went to the house of
the glorious witch. We ate hummingbirds’ eggs and
small slices of persimmon glazed with honey. I wanted
her to teach me how to fly, but all I could say was
‘aspidistras’. In the courtyard, hummingbirds hummed –
a sad tale of missing eggs. I took the hand of the
glorious witch. We walked together among the
persimmon trees. ‘Teach me how to dream of
aspidistras,’ I begged her. She laughed her honey-
glazed laugh and then, and then, we were flying like
hummingbirds, high above the courtyard.

In the white stucco room with the man from Japan, we
listened to some wilder shade of green. I sensed the
presence of mules, underground. The man from Japan
performed magic tricks with a cigarette. There was a
cup on top of his wardrobe and I said: there’s a cup on
top of your wardrobe and he said: it’s got spaghetti in it.
I haven’t laughed so much since I learned to fly. The
underground mules toil subconsciously beneath the
motorway. I’m wondering how far until breakfast.

Two days ago I was floating beneath the surface
wondering whether to come up for air and today I’m all
hummingbirds. My garden is full of persimmons and
cups of spaghetti. I have flown with a witch until
breakfast. A man from Japan made a white stucco room
disappear which has got to be a good thing. I have
played with mules and danced through aspidistras. Our
minds, unfortunately, have minds of their own. Three
hummingbirds. All humming.

Janis Freegard

A few months ago I went to the launch of Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, Janis Freegard's debut collection of poetry (published by Auckland University Press). At it she was dressed up quite fantastically, including wearing a mask with a very long beak- you can see her wearing it in this video of her reading a 'The Icon Dies' on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfS_b52SBNE.

At the launch she also read the poem which I think is my favourite in the collection - 'Three Hummingbirds'. Thanks Janis for letting me share it. I enjoy it's energy, it's sort-of narrative thread, but most of all the surrealism. Though, there may be more realism to it than I suspected: Janis says 'the cup of spaghetti on top of the wardrobe and the magic trick with the cigarette come from a real life incident.'

Janis Freegard was born in South Shields, England, but has lived in New Zealand most of her life. She has a science degree from The University of Auckland, with Honours from Victoria University of Wellington. Her work was included in AUP New Poets 3 (2008) and, also a prose writer, she won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield short story competition in 2001. Freegard lives in Wellington, New Zealand with an historian and a cat and blogs at http://janisfreegard.wordpress.com.

Check out the other Tuesday Poems, which are appearing already, via the Tuesday Poem blog.


Mary McCallum said...

This is fantastic - for all its gorgeous words - some of my favourite in the language: hummingbirds, aspidistras, persimmons. It feels to me to be a poem about writing, about language - how those words get stuck in our heads, how we fly with witches, find/live with weird things etc. I'd love to have been at the launch but I had another book event I was involved with. I was looking forward to wearing an animal mask... Thanks Helen .

T. Clear said...

This is delightful and disturbing all at once -- my favorite kind of writing, a surprise on every line.

(And thanks to Mary McCallum for pointing me to it.)

(And as I've been beseiged by hummingbirds of late, it's particularly apropos....)