The Pastoral Kitchen: Poems by Anna Jackson

The Pastoral Kitchen: Poems by Anna Jackson

by Anna Jackson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781775582014
Publisher: Auckland University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2002
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 64
File size: 208 KB

About the Author

Anna Jackson is the 2001 writer in residence at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. She received her Ph. D. from Oxford University, is the author of The Long Road to Teatime, and appears in the short ficion anthology The Picnic Virgin. She lives in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Read an Excerpt

The Pastoral Kitchen

By Anna Jackson

Auckland University Press

Copyright © 2001 Anna Jackson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77558-201-4



    In the mid winter weeded over
    vegetable garden shoots up
    the self seeded rocket
    and flowers.


    The pastoral kitchen

    In my pastoral kitchen I wash and dry
    the dishes, as my thoughts stray
    like sheep I guide

    and serve. From tomorrow's photo order
    to the end of evolution they stray
    and graze.

    The spiders' webs over the kitchen
    windows fill with flies.
    The cat comes in

    and cries at me as if I were her mother.
    I fill the lunch boxes
    and wait for Di.


    Diana says, with her cardigan on,
    come here, camellia.

    She leaves her kete at the kitchen
    door to stretch and reach.

    Leaves and twigs and petals catch on.
    Comb your hair, chameleon.

    Tahitian pohutakawa

    This baby tree is growing
    leggy, or armish in
    fact just

    like a two-year-old suddenly
    clutching at you all
    over from all

    directions with a fistful
    of arms, waving
    little leaves.

    Up it clambers from the muddy
    lawn and from the hole
    we dug

    for Elvira's placenta. Feed, baby
    tree, I can't wait to see you

    The peacock of motherhood

    This is the gift my son gave me,
    strutting through my life, tail dragging,
    perching on everything I do and as soon
    as my back is turned, jumping down
    with a thud and a cry, following me.

    The pea-hen of girlhood
    makes no sound now, sleeps
    undisturbed. I can hardly remember
    so brown a bird; if I try to think
    up flashes the tail

    of motherhood to distract me.
    I remember she was as brown as thought.
    But the peacock has found other cocks
    to flash his tail at; the peacocks
    of motherhood are strutting

    at the school gates, the gifts
    our sons gave us. The birds strut
    and preen, flash their tails,
    while the mothers smile
    till the bell goes.

    Kitchen drain

    Elvira is talking to the drain again:
    a language learnt at two
    is a mother tongue.

    The drain mothers my daughter,
    and she replies, supplies
    her own grammar:

    'Grammar, mother', and the drain takes
    grammar and swirls it away
    with fame and genius,

    swirls it away with a trillion people
    but we don't care, it all comes up again.
    It is a bulimic drain.

    Why do my hydrangeas turn yellow
    and shrink as all around them
    swill swamp lilies?

    Because it all comes up again.
    They yellow with grammar and Elvira
    is speaking English again.


    Elvira says look! there's a clock
    on my watch!

    There's a clock on my watch too.
    Now I can watch the time

    objectively, as if I weren't internally
    clocking the time with every cell,

    every beat of my heart.
    Who beats my heart?

    I can't beat time, just watch
    the clock.

    Elvira says, I am a dog cat,
    woof meow, woof meow.

    Tick tock,
    watch clock.

    The hen of tiredness

    Tiredness sits on me today like a hen,
    a tame hen, too heavy
    to fly much, and too confident
    to shy away when I try to get up.
    Instead it digs in its claws
    and shifts its weight violently
    from side to side.
    It smells of flaky hen-skin
    under its feathers.

    Sometimes tiredness is a whole flock
    of birds, little yellow birds
    that fly together in a cloud
    like Bella Akhmadulina's
    rain, following me
    wherever I go, fluttering
    above my head and keeping up
    a running commentary in song.
    Everywhere I go I leave yellow feathers.

    There are usually a few yellow birds
    perched on my shoulders, balancing
    on my head, but activity
    will dislodge them,
    or even emotion, if I express it.
    But the hen! Today, I have a hen
    of tiredness and it is very very tame.
    It is making a nest with the hairs from my head.
    What will I do if it lays me an egg?

    The computer hen

    The computer hen waits for me at work.
    She sits on my screen, and thinks.
    And nobody knows what she thinks,
    because she never drops a thought
    onto the screen but wraps them all
    around her in a green glaze.
    Chook chook chook I drop

    scitter scatter onto the screen little words
    like grains of wheat, but the computer hen
    has no feet. She never does come
    striding down to eat my words
    but sits, a wingless, footless bird
    inscrutable on my screen.
    All the same, I address these words

    to her. I don't write 'you'. Not to
    the computer hen. But I think
    she knows who I mean, for
    although she has no ears,
    she pricks her eyes,
    and it seems to me she pricks her beak,
    her beak of clay, almost a speak.

    The vending machine

    We need the vending machine. We are all of us
    so far from our mothers now, some of us are
    mothers, though not here, not now. Here, now,
    we are quite quite autonomous. And so adult.

    We could not possibly receive our lunch
    reclining, in a lap, with arms around us,
    and our lunch coming liquidly into our mouths
    like hair brushing our faces, or a finger brushing
    our faces,

    to remove an eyelash, say, from a cheek. Not
    in these clothes. We are buttoned up, now.
    We operate the machine with coins, from our
    coins we have earned ourselves with our readings of texts.

    We make our selection, salt or sugar, but not
    or even perspiration, and not milk, certainly not,
    quite how many tears or drops of milk it would
    to make one packet of crisps or one chocolate

    imagine the tears and the milk it would take to
    the machine, it would take a year of crying and
    feeding and crying, from a mother not coping
    very well.
    But no, no, we need have none of that,

    we take our lunch packaged up in plastic and eat
    at our desks, as we read and sometimes even as
    we write,
    drinking tea or coffee, which as it is dehydrating
    is only sort of liquid really and sort of is the

    The pastoral reader

    I slow down to browse at the library,
    in a body suddenly aware
    of its biology,

    a complex ecology, even, housing
    viruses and bacteria
    all with some autonomy,

    if not, perhaps, personality.
    I browse, and they graze
    and divide inside me.

    Sarah's hair

    As red as the beak
    of a takahe

    it punctuates the air,
    her hair,

    saying hey! Here
    I am! And where

    am I? Beside
    Sarah, my eyes

    on Sarah's

    Home time

    Diana says,

    go yellow,

    Pick up

    How under the weather
    the Russians were,

    Akhmadulina with her rain
    following her everywhere,

    Mayakovsky with his drain
    of despair.

    But my cloud in trousers is
    Elvira in a fluffy pink coat,

    and she isn't hip-height yet.
    I am over the weather

    and my little pink cloud
    runneth over, too.


    By evening what we call a lawn is pooling
    inwards onto the concrete

    Around the edges the kikuyu swells
    and spreads like a sea waving
    (not drowning).

    Yes, I see you,

    In a minute

    I will look at Johnny's work in a minute.

    Not now because now is a dark wood
    the length of a beach
    the height of the sky
    with three beasts
    standing panting
    between my son
    and me.

    I don't need a road map,
    I need a life map.

    I don't need a map, I need a vehicle,
    I need to climb into a minute
    and sit with my son in
    the front seat
    with the windscreen
    wiped clean
    and my eyes

    wide open in wild surmise.

    After the nit shampoo

    Johnny says,

    Elvira's hair
    is clear
    as God
    and glass.

    Kitchen chair

    By the kitchen light, I sit till late
    and read to the end of evolution,
    the logical conclusion.

    What kind of history we will enter
    then, when we alone
    will enter it?

    In the end, will my viral flock
    go forth, and evolve again,
    outside of me?

    Still I cling to family,
    and the continuity
    of history.

    These kitchen days must never end.
    On this, so much


    The pastoral farmer
    walks over the earth
    with many feet.

    The arable farmer
    digs in alone,

    the earth, to start
    again, create
    a clean slate.

    Feet fall like rain,
    move off


    When the Persian Gulf was flat
    and dry, that

    was our summer time, our

    We could live there today,
    on holiday,

    in a tent, with or without
    a portable TV.

    I could manage with the children

    lying out on the grass,
    fruit falling into our mouths,

    we could let the gazelle

    For our paleolithic family
    it was a paradise,

    and our numbers grew.
    Our family grew like grass.


    The end of the ice age
    released the seas

    and where we lived in paradise
    is now the Persian Gulf.

    We were so many when we
    climbed to the highlands.

    Too many to live
    on fruit and fish,

    wheat was our saving
    and our undoing

    and the undoing
    of our entangled world.

    We carried it in on the stalk,
    not the apple but the wheat,

    and learnt to till and toil.
    In the sweat

    of our faces
    we learnt to eat bread,

    and bred so well,
    so well fed

    we were, only bread
    could keep us.

    Death Star

    Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime
    Infinite aftertime: above your head
    They close like giant wings, and you
    are dead.

    Nabokov, Pale Fire.

    The extinction of the dinosaurs
    was just the last

    of the mass extinctions
    of the past:

    five we know of, tens of millions
    of years apart.

    It could be a 'Death Star' orbits
    with our sun,

    every few billion years
    pulling down

    a storm of asteroids like the one
    that killed the dinosaurs,

    punctuating a history
    with cataclysms

    of extinction, ecosystems
    collapsing in disarray.

    The most recent mass extinction
    began a few thousand years ago,

    when people took in great numbers
    to the sea,

    colonised, farmed,

    We are losing species at a hundred times
    the natural rate, a thousand times,

    and the rates of extinction
    are increasing.

    We have become
    our own Death Star.


    Bulky and

    and flightless
    it sat

    on an egg
    the size

    of a pear.

    nobody knows
    its song, though

    the taste
    of its meat

    is on record:
    sailors called

    the Dodo

    'disgusting bird',
    the longer boiled

    the tougher
    and more greasy.

    But easy

    In 1662
    the last few

    Dodos were finished

    saving a party
    of castaways.

    It was the first extinction
    of note,

    the first noticed
    as such.


    Huia feathers were always rare treasures,
    kept in waka huia,
    treasure boxes.

    An iridescent bird, blue-black like petrol,
    with a greenish sheen,
    rarely seen,

    the huia hopped along the ground, grounded.
    But sang like the tui,
    like a flute.

    Dressed in treasure too valued by people
    for the bird to be valued as bird,
    the huia is no longer heard.

    When the Duke of York was presented
    with a feather for his hat,

    in huia feathers leapt to extinction.
    Now the waka huia preserve
    other treasures.

    This is my waka huia for the bird.


    For so long gone,
    how strange

    to find them again
    not extinct

    after all, small

    passing on skills
    for survival,

    mother and father

    in the intricacies
    of tussock eating,

    fern rooting,
    and how

    to hold food
    with a foot.

    Its beak a red

    mark, the takahe
    shows how to find

    the sweet core
    through knowing

    the tough exterior,
    what to eat

    through what
    to leave:

    watch me eat
    the tussock core

    so sweet
    and so cold.

    This is just to say,


    The first Maori waka arrived
    at a pastoral kitchen,

    stocked with moa
    roaming on giant drumsticks,

    named by the Maori settlers
    'chicken', which is

    to say, meat.
    They moved as slowly

    as a crowd, and loudly
    as a feast,

    which is what, after all,
    they were.

    Those pastoral days
    when we walked

    with our dinner,
    two legs by two,

    if we had not got along
    so well, may well

    have lasted


    (for Gideon Climo, who sent the feather)

    In our cabinet, folded
    into a piece of paper,

    sits a kakapo feather,

    and spotted yellow,
    out of context.

    The kakapo are known
    for their smell,

    sweet and musty
    as a clarinet case.

    So few kakapo
    survive, kept alive

    on an island
    stripped of pests,

    yet once the kakapo
    filled the bush,

    their booming calls
    the heartbeat

    of a bird-rich island.
    When a kakapo

    leaves its nest
    the smell of kakapo

    lingers on.
    And in our cabinet,

    a feather, in place
    of a song.


    They still go, the kokako,
    in bounds and glides,

    through small islands
    of mainland bush,

    the farmland surround
    a buffer zone

    from the predators we introduced.
    Here in these islands they bound

    and glide, and in the early dawn
    rise to the highest perches,

    where each bird beats its wings,
    fans its tail and arches its neck,

    clucks and buzzes a random note,
    then launches forth into melody.

    Called by the settlers 'organ bird',
    the kokako calls female to male,

    male to female, across the tops
    of trees, in complex harmonies

    sometimes picked up
    by neighbouring pairs,

    to sing a rondo
    in the bush.

    Rondo on,

    Amazon islands

    The new pastoralists first make
    their pasture.

    A tax incentive was invented
    to save half the forest of Manaus:

    every rancher put fifty percent
    of the land in reserve.

    Now there are thousands of
    Amazon islands,

    ten hectares here,
    ten hectares there,

    and every one surrounded by pasture,
    and every one unravelling.

    First the big predators were lost,
    the jaguar lasting less than a year.

    Then the tamarins ran away,
    seeking lost feeding groves;

    and two bearded sakis, confined
    on one of the islands isolated

    from their social group, pined
    away and died.

    The howler monkeys disappeared
    from island after island,

    bird density fell year after year
    after year.

    The few ant colonies ten hectares
    sustains do not sustain

    the antbirds. There are no island
    antbirds now.

    Then the islands began to shrink.
    The trees along the edges

    were scorched and died,
    taking others with them

    when they fell,
    the gaps letting in more light,

    more pastoral weeds,
    more pasture.

    Fifty percent diminished
    to forty-five, forty, thirty,

    And every island fled away
    (Revelation, 16:20.)


    Through a reserve in Madagascar swing
    the Indris, the babakoto,

    largest lemurs,
    'little fathers',

    'grandfathers', or

    Here a remnant population
    lives on,

    here on this islanded

    by roads people could walk

    in a day,
    Indris never cross.

    An Indri needs a network of trees,
    traverses the forest in leaps and bounds,

    long legged, quick footed, acrobat
    without a trapeze.

    Little fathers, little mothers,
    little babies clinging on,

    sing to us
    of family.


Excerpted from The Pastoral Kitchen by Anna Jackson. Copyright © 2001 Anna Jackson. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
The pastoral kitchen,
The pastoral kitchen,
Tahitian pohutakawa,
The peacock of motherhood,
Kitchen drain,
The hen of tiredness,
The computer hen,
The vending machine,
The pastoral reader,
Sarah's hair,
Home time,
Pick up,
In a minute,
After the nit shampoo,
Kitchen chair,
The pastoral elephant,
Death Star,
Amazon islands,
The song of the babakoto,
Spotted owl,
The birds of Guam,
Iriomate cat,
Sea grass,
How to strand an elephand,
The pastoral elephant,
From farming,
The creche turtle,
By the Same Author,

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