13 July 2010

Tuesday Poem: 'Spilt' by Helen Heath


The touch of your hand on my
breast brings little needles and
I let down first just a drop, another drop and
then when I’m sitting on you, over you
it’s a steady flow and the milk is everywhere.
I guess it’s not really a waste because
there is always more but I resent you a little because
it’s not yours and you think it’s funny and
I guess it is and I just need to let go.
You check to see if I have teeth down there and
if you can pass to the other side.
You do think I’m a goddess and
the children tear us apart, me to earth, you
up in the air or is it the other way around? And
our fingertips can’t quite touch and I cry down on you
or do you cry down on me?
The children walk all over me or
is it you?
Valley, hills, rivers and caves.

By Helen Heath

Helen Heath is a poet from the sea-side village of Paekakariki, on the Kapiti Coast. In 2009 she completed an MA in creative writing at Victoria University. Her poetry has been published in many journals in New Zealand and Australia, and she's almost finished polishing her first full-length book. You can find her shiny new website at: http://www.helenheath.com/.

I first read this poem when it was published in JAAM 26, edited by Tim Jones. I was immediately struck by its power - its rawness, its physicality. I often misread the title as 'Split', because it is a poem about being torn apart a bit, losing yourself a bit for the people you love. And, it's also a tender poem, it is full of love. And I've also always enjoyed its mixture of the domestic and the mythic. It's both intensely personal, but also universal.

When I was selected poems to go into Watching for Smoke - the rather attractive chapbook of poems by Helen Heath, which I published last year - I knew 'Spilt' would be my anchor and my jumping-off point. The themes it introduces are the themes that carry through the whole book - family, and particularly the different roles we have in them, such as mother, wife, lover, daughter, sister, and the tensions within and between them.

Anyway, I love this poem. I think it's awesome.

More awesome poems at: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.


Mary McCallum said...

Yes it is awesome. Incredibly powerful. Interesting to read your reaction to it as a publisher and how it anchored Helen's collection. Thanks Helen.

Emma said...

This was one of the first poems I read of Helen's. I love it. I love the relentless progression of it.

Kay Cooke said...

Love it! Thanks.

Harvey Molloy said...

I also read it as 'split'! I just love how the last line works: talk about writing a landscape!

Miss Dust said...

Triffic poem, Helen. Our own Aotearoa Sharon Olds x