Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Vicarage Kids by Ruth Arnison


The vicarage lolled on the other side of our
hedge. We slashed a go between hole
inventing our own church union.

We reckoned if living in the vicarage made
their dad the vicar, then our dad must be
the man

Their dad had a moonish face and always
looked puzzled. He would peer at us
over the top of his glasses,

as though he couldn't quite remember where
we came from. And we saw him 
every day!

He had a gold tooth tucked down the side
of his grin. Our dad said the bank was
the best place for gold. 

On rainy days we’d weave flax mats in the
wash house. When their mum got sick of
the mess she’d shoo us off

to the TV room. We’d sink into the darkness
of the tatty leather sofa absorbing Lassie,
Gentle Ben, poachers, and

deathtraps – a world away from Riverton. And
then after scattering thanks we’d head
back through the hedge

to mum’s warmth in the coal ranged kitchen,
baby in the playpen and bible readings
after tea.

Ruth Arnison

Ruth sent the following to me in an email - a delightful accompaniment to her poem - "I spent the first two years of my life in Oamaru before we moved to Riverton for seven years - an idyllic place to live in the 60s. If we weren't at the vicarage we were darting out the back gate through the neighbours, and along the road to play with our best friends, the Catholics. We were envious of the Catholic kids - they had nuns at their school and their church had candles and lots of 'flash stuff'. It made our Dad's church seem rather boring. Now and then we'd go and help Rosie, our friends' mum, clean the Catholic church. Rosie lent us scarves to cover our heads - we thought she was trying to hide the Presbyterian kids from her God!

My poems have been published in ezines, anthologies and magazines throughout NZ, Aus, the UK and USA. I love reading, listening to and playing with words. Working at a local secondary school in the Student Office I frequently get to hear new words but once translated I realise their suitability for inclusion in my poems is questionable!"

Ruth coordinates the very successful Poems in the waiting Room scheme. This excerpt from a recent New Zealand Poetry Society newsletter explains. . . "Ruth Arnison of Otago has successfully established a local 'Poems in the Waiting Room' scheme, under licence and start-up grant from 'Poems in the Waiting Room', UK. The initial summer print run in November/December 2008 was 500 cards; there were 1000 for autumn and she's looking at 2000 cards for the winter edition. The poetry cards combine classic poems, including many from UK PitWR earlier editions, with new work by New Zealand poets. They have been welcomed by Dunedin medical practitioners and rest homes, and supplies have quickly run out in a number of surgeries. . ." 

To read more about this excellent poetry initiative, visit the Poems in the Waiting Room blog and here is an article about Ruth and her PitWR work in the Otago Daily Times.

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 
Helen Heath is this week's TP editor; she has chosen A Week of it by Dinah Hawkin


  1. A window of wonder!

    Thanks for the introduction.

  2. I like it and will look out for more of Ruth's.

  3. What but poetry could belong so easily to the scholar and the subversive? Poetry in unlikely forms and unexpected places may be the greatest guerrilla art form. xo

    WV, and I'm not kidding, godckled

  4. "A window of wonder' - I like that, John. Yes.

    Pen - you will unlock treasures.

    Marylinn - wv. god chuckled?! This got a laugh out of me, albeit it a somewhat discomforted one! I agree with you that poetry in unlikely forms and unexpected places can be most affecting.

    Are you all feeling as strange as I am? Love, Claire