July 7, 2016

Two poems by Mercedes Webb-Pullman: "The Harbour of Freedom" and "The Dairy-woman's Dance"

Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from Victoria University Wellington with an MA in Creative Writing 2011. Her poems and stories have appeared in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, Connotations, The Red Room, Typewriter, and Cliterature, among others, and in her books. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.


The Harbour of Freedom

The harbour of freedom endures.
Weathered cliffs protect it,
busy wharves front the ocean
below a spill of roofs.

A woman moves in a doorway, sweeping
yesterday’s dust away from her feet,
decks of violets, blue velvet, beside her,
memory’s perfume wafting through air.

A sunbeam catches a crest. It flares,
surf breaks, sails shake out and fill.
Thoughts swift as gulls tear at the sky
for the silent secret that keeps the wind
patient as glaciers blazing.

This ghostly crescent moon
holds between her horns
full directions to the harbour of freedom.

The Dairy-woman’s Dance

Freedom flows from the widow’s smile,
beginning at eyes, curving lips into line.
She dances naked, swinging her hips,
toes curled up from the frosty grass,
moonlight bright on her muscular thighs.
A morepork hoots in startled surprise;
her lavender scent, like sighs, rides behind
a hint of peppermint schnapps.

Young Jeannie Jenkins from Old Peel’s Forest
has never danced naked before in her life.
Cows will wait at the bails this morning,
patient and early, chewing and drooling
in a huff of warm fog, ready for milking,
fixing her with brown eyes.

Sharp nibs of gossip are scratching already
all up and down the green hills and gullies.
The widow scratches her itches in public,
they say. Shadows frown from the fence.

The story of naked dancing will spread
all through the neighbours, with shaking of heads
but she’ll move into town, rent out the lot
and finally start to live. Strangers will lead her,
red shoes afire, in such merry dancing
her feet never tire. She’ll have to wed one

or two or three, and settle down again.
Plus ca change, plus la meme chose
she laughs to herself as she prances,
even as freedom opens for business,
even as waves lick calamitous rocks
and tumble down over it all.

 ~Mercedes Webb-Pullman

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