short stories



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Clarence Street
Frances Merioti

She ignored the soft glow of
totara strips sanded smooth
by many generations,
took for granted warmth from
the polished black-leaded coal range:
thought only how hard it was
to fill the kindling cupboard.

Much too young to comprehend
the widow’s weekly struggle
to pay six silver florins
stared mute at the receipt
stamped final payment:
thought only how she loved
the beat of rain on iron.

The gabled villa handy
to town, blue wisteria
wreathing the front veranda.
four rooms and a lean-to out
back, a WC in the shed.
Closed her eyes to the ugly
china pots under each bed.

Kapok mattresses and quilts
feather-filled, tucked in
to shield her from bad dreams.
Thinking they were poor, the child
called everything old, and
pretended she lived next
door in the new bungalow.

The child with her own child stands
lonely as cars circle the
Island, loathing the noise and
smells that defile memories
of her first home. And shows
where the old villa stood, now marked
by broken white lines on black.




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