"A Member of the Council for Literary Magazines and Presses"

Laurice Gilbert

Laurice Gilbert

Laurice Gilbert lives in Wellington, New Zealand, with her husband of thirty years, and the youngest of four daughters. She spent most of her adult years as an audiologist in New Zealand's public health service. She joined the New Zealand Poetry Society's governing committee in 2002, initially with the Treasurer portfolio. Since 2004 she has run the NZPS International Poetry Competition. She retired early from her health career in July 2006 and took on the role of National Coordinator of the Society in September 2006. She has been elected President annually since 2007.

Laurice earned a Diploma of Art & Creativity in 1994 by studying part-time and majoring in creative writing. Prior to working within the NZ Poetry Society she taught writing classes and ran poetry workshops. She completed undergraduate poetry courses at the International Institute of Modern Letters (Victoria University of Wellington) in 2003 and 2009.

She has represented the NZPS on New Zealand's National Public Radio as guest judge for a poetry competition in 2006. In April 2008 she was interviewed on Radio New Zealand Concert, and in early 2011 was twice a guest poet for community radio station Hutt Radio.

Laurice's poems have been published in: JAAM 4 (1996), eight NZPS anthologies (1997-2006, 2009, 2010), A Question of Poetry (Wai-te-ata Press, 2003), NZ Hunting & Wildlife (2003), A Headful of Daffodils (for the Wellington Cancer Society, 2005), Swings and Roundabouts (Random House, 2008) and JAAM 26 (2008). One of the JAAM 26 poems was selected for the Dominion Post's 'Wednesday Poem' in November 2008. In 2009 she had 3 poems published in Viola Beadleton's Seriously Silly and Astoundingly Amazing Stories! (Volume Three, Winter 2009), one in Landfall and one in a UK anthology, The Book of Ten. In May 2010 she was the Featured Poet in Valley Micropress, and subsequently had poems in The Bay of Plenty Times, Mozzie, Bravado, Shot Glass Journal, Island and the fib review. Two of her Shot Glass Journal poems were nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Prize. In February 2011 she was one of the poets featured in the International Literary Quarterly's New Zealand Literary Showcase. Also in 2011, two of her poems made their way onto the 'Tuesday Poem' blog, an international literary forum based in New Zealand, and others were in Shot Glass Journal and Eye to the Telescope.

She won the Great Kiwi Summer Poetry Slam 2001/2002, had a poem Highly Commended in the 2005 Bravado Poetry Competition, and came 4th in the St Petroc's Society First International Poetry Competition (UK) in 2007. She came Second in the 2009 Bravado International Poetry Competition.

Laurice has been guest reader for a number of events since October 2007, including group readings in 2008 and 2010. She enjoyed her first residency as Poet in Residence at the Mensa International Board of Directors Convention in Auckland, New Zealand in October 2010.

Laurice is currently working on assembling her first collection, in which some of these poems will appear. Mindful of the extreme difficulty of obtaining publishing grants in an arts-unfriendly financial environment, she has opted to self-publish, including hand-printing a limited number of the books herself, using altered books. This is taking a lot longer than anticipated, but she is determined to complete it in 2012. She started writing an epic poem two years ago, but has put this on the back burner for the time being.


Memento Mori

after Billy Collins

Most of my belongings will predecease me –
my favourite teacup, probably,
my collection of vintage fabrics, my stash of fuzzy wool,
with any luck the mending pile, currently gathering spiders;

even my precious laptop, replaced by
who-knows-what essential technology,
as the washboard and tub by a machine,
the servant and scythe by a ride-on mower.

Nothing I really care about can share my ride
to the crematorium, nor top up my urn,

though should I go first it would be fun
to see my worn-out ocelot-patterned scuffs
flap-flapping along the road behind the hearse
marking out my missing footprints.

As I settle down in my final resting place
they might line themselves up neatly near by,
as though expecting me to rise in the night
and take them for a walk.


Beautiful Smile

The traffic security officer at Navy Pier
used to be an electrician and tells me
his wife loves Ireland
(though he may be talking about Arlen,
which is in Texas).

As I board the trolley, he says,
"You have a beautiful smile."

Who, me?

With my Karori Cemetery teeth
and menopausal moustache?
Whose loving father (every girl's
first admirer) once described
as "not unattractive"?

Perhaps he really said,
"you have a youthful snarl"
or "you have a booty full of style"
or even "you have a dutiful spiral"
– a comment on the hairdo du jour.

Or perhaps I remind him of his mother
or a long-lost lover
or the lady in the local dime store
who gave him candy as a kid
and saw him through the difficult times.

I think, though, that in the land of the brave
and the home of the Osmonds
compliments are currency
and I have just received
a priceless souvenir.


aubade

Were there roosters in the yard
crowing their dawn clichés
I could not pretend to
keep you here a moment more;
but the ducks, well,
the ducks quack and the drakes
mumble and they rearrange
their feathers and nests
throughout the night,
pairing and separating at will.
It is 3am, or 4.30
or midnight; dark at least
and not yet time for you to leave.
It is summer – the night is too short
and surely we have time to spare.
Somewhere in the world
an alarm clock does its duty,
but not here, not now.
(I turned it off; no need
for a clock to know when it's time
for you to go.)
Listen! The ducks have ceased
their fussing and settled
back into restful sleep.
Later they will assemble
at the gate, begging for breakfast,
their night over – there will be
business to conduct:
splashing and preening,
dabbling and laying;
but not yet, not now;
not yet,
not now.


Dear Sir

The Press, Christchurch, Saturday 3rd October 2009

I am appalled
at the lack of consideration
shown by property owners
whose trees overhang footpaths

Government diggers were helping clear smashed timber and roofing iron stacked at the water's edge.

The sooner we get
an experienced forwards coach
coaching forwards
the better our All Blacks will be

He has begun calling mates and contractors in the building industry and more than 30 – including architects, engineers, builders and project managers – had already offered to pitch in and help.

Why should inner-city retailers
expect free parks for their customers
while the mall retailers
have to pay for theirs?

Habitat for Humanity has sent a disaster relief expert to Samoa to assess the need for both emergency and long-term shelter. We need to find out how many homes need rebuilding.

Perhaps if she'd been spanked
as a child
she might have learned not
to be so petulant

When the first wall of water hit the house, the man lifted the baby high in his arms and ran out the back door – heading for the hills.

The Council should create
a vibrant, attractive CBD
that those who choose inner-city living
can be proud of

Samoans traditionally bury their loved ones near their homes, but many of the villages have been wiped out.

If they are going to invest ratepayers' money
in local education, why should it just be
an elite little group
at the top of the system?

"The sea it just disappeared and the fish were just lying there. And after that the big wave comes."

As long as young offenders who create mayhem
on the roads are called boy racers
they will continue to think of themselves
as glorified car drivers

They're putting in the bulldozers – you know what bulldozers do to bodies?


A Time & A Place

It's a popular club:
how's it working out for you –
living in this room?

Phone calls from people who grunt,
but not a word
from the angel released by your womb.

Sleepless nights,
stashes of vodka in the freezer,
smelly socks

and abandoned homework
litter your life,
threatening to pick the locks

which safeguard your security
as you long for their maturity.


At Ticketek

Behind the counter, flies on the wall
share the immobility of the queue
immersed in quiet inactivity.
A mother, thrift shop chic,
breaks ranks to undo the silence.

"Come here"; her four-year-old steps away and cowers,
a conditioned reflex.
"Come here!" – louder –
the two-year-old hunkers deep
within the bunker of her stroller.

"Come. Here."
She hauls the boy nearer and swats them both
– first him then her – loudly over their ears.

"Hey! Don't hit them!"
A middle-aged woman, designer label elegant;
red faced, shoulders tensed, palms pitted by painted nails.

Towards the back of the queue:
an older man, tweed and gabardine, indignant.
"She should hit their legs, never their ears."

Nothing visibly accounts for either attack site.

The querulous mother faces the counter
straight-backed, red-eared;
still no sign of service to distract the audience.
The boy glowers in mistrust;
the girl howls at the betrayal
of one who professes to be her guardian.

The queue loses cohesion
as the youngsters are dragged away.
Flustered with the stroller, the mother
has only her share of the anger
to show for this family outing.

By the age of four a professional's child
will have had 50 million words addressed to it.
a working-class child 30 million
and a welfare child just 12 million...
...the professional child at the age of three
has a bigger vocabulary
than the parent of a welfare child.

The Listener, September 17 2005.


Tony says "I'm sorry, but you look like your mother"

Piece by piece I am consuming my mother. I absorb her eyes, needing more and more to augment my vision. Nose to nose you cannot tell us apart. Her mouth becomes my mouth, wrinkle by precious wrinkle. Her neck hangs from my chin; her upper arms wobble from my armpits to my elbows. My shoulders broaden as I take on the elderly concerns of my father, hers as she relaxes the responsibility. Although my tattooed bottom is still my own and her legs continue to occupy the space below hers, I walk in her shoes, my feet spreading with the additional weight of hormonal deprivation. We share cysts in our ankles. When I laugh, she laughs; when I smile, her face lights up; when I bake, her cupcakes satisfy my family, her fudge rots their teeth. Soon I will buy a cord to keep my glasses close, so I can watch her disappear.


wedding quilt

no Churning Stars jumble the vision
no Broken Dishes clutter the scene
no Shoo Flies spoil the banquet
no Scrappy Triangles offend the senses
no Log Cabins no Dresden Plates
no Tuscany Chickens no Drunkard's Paths
no Trip Around a Paint Box World

the dance opens with a pentangle
a tangle of skulls and crossbones
framed by a hand-me-down gingham dress
and Ursula's red-striped crib bumper
and a liberty print of uncertain lineage

next step: the Marimekko kitchen curtain twirls
in a swirl of orange and red
and Sylvia's inca dungarees dosie–do
with a spotted black tablecloth scrap
and Jennifer's rose-sparkled ball gown

then I join the folderol
fox-trotting in purple Crimplene
flinging white on black daisies to the wind
strewing red tulips upon pale cotton
in a tango of t-shirts
a fandango of florals

and now the wedding waltz:
heavy metal Lindsay lurks in the centre
with the skulls
while Julia surrounds his darkness
with a jeté of joy
a pas de deux of passion
and her family envelops her happiness
in a craziness of quilted colour


10 Ways to See Chicken Livers

reading between the veins foretells an uncertain future
averted eyes and vacant faces – who wants to know?
the jaundiced eye sees only destruction
marinated in anticipation, consummated in inebriation
delicious delectable debateable

accidental cruelty; so much that's hidden
closed against the sun like drawn curtains
too dark to be scarlet, too dry for passion
yielding and blurry, soft around the edges
achingly sweet, bloody as desire, sickeningly healthy

journeys end in chicken livers


Growing up in the Military

So we went through Sunday School together,
learned the texts, competing for the weekly prize,
shared our shock at the poor family
who let their children wear jandals in Church,
learned to play the tambourine on Wednesdays –
never quite good (or old) enough
to join the public spot on Friday nights
with the band brassing its way through
'Onward Christian Soldiers',
'Abide With Me' and 'Rock of Ages'
on the corner of Riddiford and Emmett Streets;
old men in uniforms blowing for their souls,
dowdy women in uniforms belting out
the tambourine X, or the tambourine I,
clearly long-graduated from Wednesday lessons –
and at 11 we took The Pledge,
never dreaming we'd ever want to drink,
permissible alcohol having been summoned up
by Our Saviour too many centuries ago to matter,
ignorant yet of the intimate pleasure of sauvignon blanc,
the social ease of unoaked chardonnay
or the stern bite of vodka on the rocks,
not to mention the tell-tale blue lips and tongue
of illicit Blackberry Nip and the hair-holding
bonding over the toilet at some squalid student flat,
and we knew it would always be this way –
best friends forever, as we planned our weddings,
named our children, decorated our houses,
arranged to meet every year after university
or 5-yearly when we got really busy
or 10-yearly if one of us was living overseas,
the glamour too tempting to resist
even for Salvation Army brats like us,
and I remember exactly how you looked last time
as though you were in the room with me still:
wearing a white pleated skirt and plain white blouse
– ill-advised for a pale-skinned blonde, I confess to thinking –
warmed by a long-sleeved hand-knitted sweater
the colour of whole-grain mustard,
plain tights, black Mary-Jane shoes
and a strappy shoulder bag to match the jumper
because you always favoured the peppy preppy look,
and we both said "see ya next time",
thirty years ago,
before leukaemia claimed you.


Sunflowers

August 1888

So I said to the lady in the flower market
What have you got in yellow?
and she sold me 15 sunflowers
The ones I painted at sunrise
still have their petals
but they don't last.


Bird With No Name

Rooster is doomed. He's started crowing
in his adolescent half-cocked way
at 6.30 when he thinks it should be light
soon and the hens will respect him.

Rooster flares his mane and stomps
at Junior Rooster, the runt, who ruffles
in response though his voice is unbroken
and who backs off, patient for another surge of growth.

Rooster coos as the cat approaches,
warning his brood of feathered followers
who nevertheless squawk in surprise
when the cat rushes, as he always does.

Rooster eats from my hand, casually pecking
at pellets or wheat or dandelion leaves
or the hens' heads when they presume to be worthy
of my generosity, attention and food.

Rooster is tall and handsome and all
male as he patrols the yard and guards
the roost, spruce as a Revlon rep
hawking homogenised beauty at the mall.

But Rooster is doomed. He's got to go
before his voice fulfils its evolution
into a fence-hurdling neighbour-disturbing
cry for world domination at dawn.

Rooster has no need of a name
where he's going.


Morning

When are you going to grow up?
I'm tired of picking up after you
I never knew children were such hard work
What do you mean you've lost one shoe?

I'm tired of picking up after you
Please eat your toast and drink your juice
What do you mean you've lost one shoe?
You're going to be late for school

Please eat your toast and drink your juice
I asked you to turn the TV off
You're going to be late for school
Stop pulling your sister's hair

I asked you to turn the TV off
Here's your lunch – go clean your teeth
Stop pulling your sister's hair!
Have you put your togs in your bag?

Here's your lunch – go clean your teeth
I'm just going to feed the cat
Have you put your togs in your bag?
I'll meet you out at the car

I'm just going to feed the cat
It's cold out – you'll need a coat
I'll meet you out at the car
Why tell me now about a shared lunch?

It's cold out – you'll need a coat!
Here's the bus money to get to the pool
Why tell me now about a shared lunch!
I'm not moving till your seat belt's done up

Here's the bus money to get to the pool
I'll pick you up at the usual time
I'm not moving till your seat belt's done up
Don't empty your hairbrush on the floor!

I'll pick you up at the usual time
I hope you enjoy your day at school
Don't empty your hairbrush on the floor!
Here, you've forgotten your bag

I hope you enjoy your day at school
(I never knew children were such hard work)
Here, you've forgotten your bag
When are you going to grow up?


If Wellington Were a Sandwich

From the top of Mt Vic in July
the harbour spreads like mashed avocado
topped with cottage cheese yachts

The fault line rests for now,
mashed banana and crushed potato crisps
a thing of the past and of the future

Walnut street workers dig up
vegemite pavements
smoothing them for peanut butter tourists

Parliament sits in an urgency
of hummus and chopped olives
passing bread and butter laws

Students scale luncheon sausage hills
to absorb the cole slaw of knowledge
at the mayonnaise university

The prevailing nor'westerly turns you
into grated carrot and raisins
saturated with fruit juice

While the southerly
freeze dries you like apricots
rolls you like asparagus

At Scorching Bay in February
tuna turns into Chocolate Fish
and you fry like falafel mix


The Trip of a Lifetime

(Terza Rima)

When Christine did her big OE
she couldn't wait to share
forty pages of travelogue with me.

But that was the year
I kept my email address hidden
from those like her who, I feared,

showed no discrimination
around sending jokes to everyone
on their contact list, and ten

junk emails a day were unwelcome.
Undaunted, she sent it to my Dad,
considered it a job well done.

Probably thought it would be dog-eared
by the time she saw me again.
Instead, I told her off. I was mad

when Dad phoned about the insane
amounts of paper and ink it took
to spew out when, all innocent,

he hit 'print'. He wasn't expecting a book.
She sent him five pounds
so he wouldn't be out of pocket

and, being oldish, he turned it down
– said it didn't matter for a friend.
The City Mission gained from his abundance,

and then he posted it to me. That's when
I started to read it. Oh dear.
"Oh well off on our three months adventure."

The day arrived and the excitement was there...
... this coastline is very nice...
it looked like time had stood still in these areas

Amsterdam, just seen the Northern Lights.
Off to see the castle and the castle is out of this world.
The scenes are picturesque especially at night.

Made you wish you were very wealthy
and had all the time to travel.
Caught bus in to town the young ones were very helpful.

By page four my brain was unraveled.
Christine, my oldest friend, I wanted
to finish, but it dragged like a treadmill,

the kind that makes you feel haunted.
I tried hard (I did!) to share in the journey,
but both story and friendship were munted.


running on empty

in a quiet suburban avenue
her child's nose running a vacant burble

with feet like a scrag end
crazy to tether the grass

she gapes at the pages
hooks her mother fingers

through gaps of fists and feelings
looks up to the mask of the sun

mapping out portions of pomp
the flavour of mystery

"I know you!" she cries
as the wind wilts and scrambles

the fallout of laughter
woven from nowhere


Dear Diary

1st January: White Rabbits
millions of suns oversee millions of resolutions –
millions of cigarettes thrown away
millions of gym memberships renewed
millions of million dollars planned
millions of diaries opened and begun
2nd January: Public Holiday
except at The Warehouse, Mitre 10
Farmers, K Mart and Briscoes
3rd January: Sunny and Warm
ice-creams at the beach
10th January: Back to Work
I resolve to let the holiday mood prevail
and to value sex over home maintenance
24th January: Eskimo Pie Day
at Oriental Bay
chocolate-covered ice-creams
smothered in sand and hair
7th February: My Birthday
What gift can do justice to the time I have left?
I ask for clean windows, as I do every year
25th March: good Friday
the holiday that killed Florence
21st June: Winter Solstice
They say the dark night of the soul is almost over
I say the weather won't improve until October
23rd September: Vernal Equinox
Out for lunch with my sister
Of all the salad bars, in all the towns,
in all the world,
a slug crawls into my greens
25th December: Merry Christmas
Family here for lunch –
the less recorded the better
I receive a new diary
1st January: White Rabbits


under the hammer

(a found poem)

Tomorrow my watch strap will break. I feel an attack coming. An urge to place my head on this thick book lying on my worktable. It all goes blank from then on. Jolted into consciousness by my boss shaking me vigorously and gesticulating wildly, like a madman. Look at the clock on my desk and sure enough I will lose time yet again.

Monday will go well. Good therapy. Therapist and me talking about my goals for the summer. I'm really good about that. A little bit proud even. Then we talk about every April, I take big steps backwards. I self injure and more eating disorder stuff. No way. Why every April is so difficult.

This conversation with my sister, discussions about the past. Dissociating on my part. and ... DAMMIT ... somehow I will really, really lose track of time past 2 days. My therapist calls me real quick. She has gotten 8 phone messages from me in 2 days. Completely shocked. I call and talk to the secretary about cutting. Why would I do that? Time attack. I really, really losing time.

no idea what the others doing scares me much. hits me no clue whats going. i hate when people tell me things i doing. when i have no idea. i thank therapist for letting me know i can do something since i know clueless shameful embarrassed


Wealth you can buy

(a poem found steadying a wonky bookshelf)

Robert Kiyosaki says:
"before I was five I know I was
hooked on money". Good for him.
You, too, could be rich on a budget –

bank it all and don't touch it.
Don't eat, don't dress, don't go to the gym
like everybody else does.
But Bob says (and here I paraphrase):

buy into the razzmatazz,
the great property investing buzz,
gear yourself up to the brim
for a house, a flat, or apartment

that's not a bottomless pit
of wiring, pipes and renovation,
then let it without fuss
to a long-term tenant who pays

your mortgage. Repeat. Two years,
maybe less, and you've got a cosy
portfolio. It's a hymn
to passive income and capital

gain. As long as you commit
to buy and hold, what can go wrong? Some
interest hikes, some rent defaults.
The fear of losing money, Bob says,

is an obstacle you face
by learning from your failures.
Now I've read the book (well, skimmed
it) I've put it back where I found it.


Time in my Hands

So when you ask me where my time has gone,
I blush as I reply. I have to say
that filling in the days with screen mah-jong
is not a kosher way to fill my day.
My work demands I concentrate my mind,
yet still I keep the bookmark for the site;
it makes the game so quick for me to find
that I can play quite late into the night.
I've got a birthday coming up quite soon –
it's one of those that makes me feel real old –
and every year I vow to change my tune,
to knuckle down and eat my turkey cold.
We all have days when we admit defeat:
I just wish I could hit that key – delete.