NZ Poetry Week: Members’ Poems (Part 1)

NZ Poetry Week: Members’ Poems (Part 1)

It’s NZ Poetry Week! Here are some speculative poems by our members. Enjoy!

Immi Paterson
Magnetic North

My entire life I had the feeling that I
had to arrive
at this precise point.
It’s not on a map, it slides about—
that’s something not often known—
but still, it is an exact location
at any given moment in time:
Magnetic North.

From the North Pole all roads lead south.
If you stand there, right on that spot,
the Earth spins at your feet.
That’s not where I am.
I’m on the ever-shifting position in which
Earth’s magnetic field points directly
I’m at the mercy of the molten core
roiling away beneath me.

I was born different,
sixteen kilos and premature.
My mum stopped heaving me to her hip when I was
five months old.
When I was nine, we did a science project
at school, involving magnets.
They clung to my hands; I couldn’t pull them off.
I cried as the family doctor wrenched them from me,
ripping my skin.

They learned I had an inconceivably high iron count.
They said I was a danger
to myself, they said
I was safer, staying with them, for testing.
They found that, like a piece of iron,
when placed within a strong magnetic field
I became magnetised.
But what they didn’t expect
was that the effect was permanent.

Inside the hospital walls, the strain was relentless.
Every metallic object hungered for me,
and I for it, so
even in the rain and sleet of winter,
tucked within the scarves and mittens my mum sent me,
I paced the wide yard.
It was strange, but each day I’d unconsciously find myself
pressed against the wooden fence
facing a field of corn with the sun setting to my left.
I yearned for North.

At eighteen, I left that place.
I couldn’t take planes; I interfered with their systems.
I’ve caught bus, train, boat,
I’ve walked.
I’ve zigzagged across the Pacific, to Japan, and up through Russia,
stopping only briefly, speaking to no one.
For years, I’ve journeyed with a force
beyond my control
urging me to continue.

And finally,
here I am.
Magnetic North.
Mum will be beside herself back home.
She begged me not to come;
she hung to my arm, crying, and I
pushed her from me, like everything else.
All my life gone,
for a pure desert of endless ice and sky,
for nothing.

But now that I’m here I doubt that I’ll ever
be able to drag myself away.

~Magnetic North and other poetry by Immi Paterson can be found in the SpecFicNZ publication, Te Kōrero Ahi Kā


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