Questions with which to interrogate a witch
Your body mass index is noticeably low.
Is this to gain easier access to the ether
on nights when the moon is
bloodshot and blinking?
Why have you so scrupulously shaved
every last feather from your armpits?
Was this another futile attempt
to deny those dark malignant flights?
We note your body is wen-
and blemish-free. You appear to have
no warts arranged in perfect circles.
Upon whom have you visited these?
No toads are in your garden.
Have you eaten them, along with
all of the newts, geckos, skinks and
salamanders, also suspiciously absent?
Where is your sinister familiar,
that low black cat with the yellow
triangular eyes? Is this bird
the simpering canary you have turned it into?
We will give you some time
to consider these questions,
but remember that though truth comes
in a lumbering carriage, it will come
as it always comes: terrible
in an iron helmet with spikes
on the inside, honest spikes
with screws to drive them home.
from Dark Days at the Oxygen Café
(Victoria University Press)
James Norcliffe is a highly published poet, fiction writer and educator. He has also worked extensively as an editor including (with Harry Ricketts and Siobhan Harvey) the major anthology Essential New Zealand Poems – Facing the Empty Page (Godwit/Random, 2014), and with Joanna Preston Leaving the Red Zone – Poems from the Canterbury Earthquakes (Clerestory Press, 2016). He has had a long time involvement with takahē magazine. Norcliffe has won numerous awards and residencies including the 2006 Fellowship at the University of Iowa. With Bernadette Hall, he was presented with a Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award for lasting contribution to literature in the South Island.
Dark Days at the Oxygen Café is his ninth poetry collection.
James Norcliffe’s Choice: ‘In the Bonds’ by Marisa Cappetta