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Family Reunion

By Gail Ingram

When I was 35, I went to my ‘uncle’s’ 50th

in his seventies house with a brown wall

of books. I’d never been there before.

I watched my 12 year old ‘cousin’ having

a melt-down, and my ‘aunt’ –  my ‘uncles sister’ –

sat him down on the step of the split-level living room.

Her husband and daughters hovered; they talked

in whispery voices. That nuclear family

seemed separate from me, and separate

from the rest of the ‘family’.


Throughout the evening, my ‘uncle’s wife’,

my other ‘cousins’, my ‘brother’ and

my ‘sister’ with her flicking teenage eyes

gave me light touches, asking

if I was all right. I danced all night,

limbs crazy-expressive because my tongue

was tied.


My red-headed ‘cousins’ had organised

a book of poems, a gift for their father. At some point

I wrote my school song in it, a conservative hymn,

thinking about how I sang it on road trips

with old friends, out loud out of tune but with ownership

for the place I’d lived from my birth

until this place now that

radiated something despite myself, I was part of,

I was generating.


The next day, they all went to a cafe. I only remember

the chatter filling the high ceiling, and the sobbing

that rose from somewhere I couldn’t stop.

She took me to our own table, away from the others, She

took my hand, She said it was okay, and still

I couldn’t call her by that name that filled my mouth

because it already belonged to another.





Punishing mum

The boy lay on the grass and watched

the shapeshifters – red, purple and green

clouds like the bruise on his thigh.


He’d fallen from his bicycle

                                    when he took off


rode through the wheatfieds


wheat   fencepost   wheat   fencepost   wheat 


until he reached the lone totora


and dropped. The shadows play

across his face in the grass.

The branches slice the breeze


like witches’ rags twitching

as they stride, raising fists and shouting no good

no good  through the cowering sky.


He wonders how it will be

when the light fades at last

and he’s not home for tea.


Lady Godiva

still wracked by guilt, and belly stretched

by child-bearing years, no longer

as those male artists painted her

hair too long and thick to emphasise

the gloss of her genetics; she can’t help

the demographic of the plump

who own four cars & a boat

their tax bills shrunk by accountants

with degrees obtained in middle-class

university courses that produce the designers

of the billboard she contemplates now from nowhere

near her neighbours’ cream villas; it says

sponsored by the ministry of development

in the corner and it’s larger than life, the child

with the unwashed face, the schoolbag rag

heavy on his shoulder, and the light

carefully considered to draw attention

to the bare feet. Godiva looks so serene,

patting her box of apples

strapped to the carrier, her own wrinkled toes curled

round the footrest of her V Star 950, pulling

70 at the intersection by the Linwood mall, out

delivering the goods again.


Gail Ingram’s poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry New Zealand, Atlanta Review, Blue Five Notebook, Penduline Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Bonsai and Manifesto. Awards include winner of New Zealand Poetry Society International Competition, third prize Poets Meet Politics International Competition, Runner Up National Flash Fiction Day NZ Micro Madness, shortlist for Fish Short Prize, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a poetry editor for takahē and Associate Editor for Flash Frontier. She teaches at the School for Young Writers in Christchurch, and holds a Masters of Creative Writing from Massey University.


You can find her at

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