28 January 2009

Jane Mander part 3: The poem

Readers of My Iron Spine (or of Takahe, where the poem first appeared) may recall my poem 'Jane Mander'.

Now it is time for me to confess that when I wrote it I knew pretty much nothing about Jane Mander, except that she'd written The Story of a New Zealand River (which I hadn't yet read). I just had this idea of the river - influenced obviously by the title of her novel - and the whole casting off Victorian repression thing, which was probably influenced by The Piano.

Once I wrote it, I did check up on the bare facts of Jane Mander's life, just to make sure it wasn't wildly contradictory, and decided that she did sound like someone who had worked to cast off Victorianism, though perhaps not in such a suggestive way.

Anyway, here's the poem:

Jane Mander

Time is a river
I am not the first to say this
I will not be the last

As I walk out the front door
down the stairs, over the grass
I am already unbuttoning

I leave my blouse
on the box edging
my petticoat floats on the pebble path

I kick my shoes into
the rushes, unclamp
my corset from myself

I crouch as the chill water
surrounds me, laps at me
I launch out, start to swim upstream

It is easier to dream downstream
but I am swimming back
into the past

Memories trickle over my skin
evaporating as the breeze
breathes over my shoulders

I push with my arms
bobbing against the current
finding my way back towards the source

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