Rising Stars share their Poetry

By Mary Locker, Isla Thomas, Beth Lynch | Posted: Tuesday May 30, 2017

Talented poets Beth Lynch, Isla Thomas and Mary Locker were invited to share their poetry and writing as part of the Rising Stars lunchtime recital during Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival in May.

The students were also profiled in a podcast series celebrating the literary talent of Dunedin Youth. 

Their writing is featured below:  

Underneath It All  by Mary Locker

Masks. Cold, hard, impenetrable. Hard to create, and all but impossible to strip away.  

Take, for example, that girl in the corner. Notice her calm aura and the peacefulness on her face. If you ground that porcelain to dust under your heel, no doubt you’d find a mind in turmoil, turning and churning with what she has learned from the day's hard toil. Boiling over with people, poetry, politics, and plans that have been foiled. But wearing a mask makes it easy you see, for her to pretend that the burden she carries is not the world in its entirety, and so she feels in control. If she showed what she was thinking, feeling, seeing in her mind’s eye, it would be simply too much to bear, and the world would turn away from this bright mind in a dark place.

An old man on a bench, who finds too much joy in the world for someone his age, has wrinkles that are fake, unshakeable faith, and white hair at odds with the way he has been made. His mask is not of his own making; it is a gift accepted unwillingly, that has been given to him out of necessity, and has built up so gradually that one day he looked in the mirror and only recognised his eyes. However he is old only in years - in body not mind. Behind the mask of elderly wisdom is the kind of youth that is hard to find, evergreen and irreplaceable. It pays no heed to what other people can see, to the way things ought to be and persists in spite of itself.

And the boy in your class, let us not forget him. The one you think is an imbecile, a dunce, a cretin. Nothing good for you to say, except that his attitude is never aimed at you. He wears a mask too. A guise of indifference to those around him, a mask that hides a broken heart. It gets stronger every time he sees a certain pair of eyes, and although it makes the fist in his chest squeeze tighter, he is glad, for it holds the pieces together, and keeps them from falling apart. The callous character he plays is merely hiding the ache, saving it for a rainy day. That way, no one will notice when he lets go, and the salt flows, not so very different from the drops on the window.

Time moves on.

The girl in the corner. Notice her calm aura and the peacefulness on her face. She has pretended for so long that her thoughts are pedestrian, nothing out of the ordinary, that she fits in. And the truth is that they are, she does. She has forgotten how to think outside the box, how to find joy in her own company. She always wonders whether she is truly happy, whether she was not less lonely when she was able to revel in the abstract and extraordinary. But it is too late.

The old man on the bench. He has forgotten how to find joy in the world. He has forgotten most things now, including what it was like to be young, what it was like to be a tall upright pine with a clear view and an open mind. The mask that he was given was preparing him for what was to come, because you see, the rest of him has caught up, and he is now every bit as old as he seems to be.

The boy in your class. Being obnoxious has become a habit, although you must admit that he’s mellower now. His indifference is no longer feigned, he genuinely doesn’t care about the eyes that once caused him so much pain. That is because his heart has healed, has been squeezed back together like clay. And, like clay, time has hardened it, so that it will not be so easily broken again.

Schizo-Phobic Tension by Isla Thomas

I am five thousand miles
away from home.
I did not think that the fear
would follow me here
I was wrong.

There is a man downstairs
chanting polluted prayers
speaking in tongues
with a voice that is not his own.

I am scared
trembling with trepidation
of the wrought iron hand,
the emotional explosion.

Eyes wet and quivering
Lips pursed,
squeezing their words
back in.

Feet hot
from holding on
too tight, too long
to smoking ground

Muscles screaming
in their sleepless hours,
lungs full to bursting
with baited breath.

He once said to me
“Your peachy perfect skin
shines like Kate Winslet
in Titanic
When you cry”

This is just as big.
My stomach churning,
his lips curling,
I smile with fond eyes to the ceiling.
Must keep composure
when his shadow voice

Kids next door are screaming.
The prayers get louder.

Weak and Waning by Isla Thomas

For the first time
I am weak and waning
Singing holy songs
That dream of Babylon

On the river rocks
Cracked open
Like a fractured egg
Dribbling out
Generational secrets
That even mother
Never knew we had

The rapid water rushes
Over my head
I let it whisper curatives
To my broken skin

On the flight home
To false strength
I watch the roads
Their lines
Too sharp
To have been carved
By water’s languid tongue
Too harsh to show sympathy
To shadows
They are the ugly seams
In Papatuanuku’s
Favorite quilt

The next week
I see our trees
For the blood that they are
Rich and forgiving

At work,
Hine scoops chips beside me
And says KiaOra
Like it is the greatest gift
She has to give
As if it lines her lips
With spring morning dew
In spite of the sutures
Binding them shut

Even I can taste
The sweetness of her syllables
With my infected mouth

After our shift
She sneaks pies from the warmer
“They’d get thrown out otherwise” she says
Then winks at me
“Don’t tell the big guy, will you love”

I wonder whether
She means God
Or our duty manager
Then I remember
That I do not speak to God

Sleep does not greet me
That night
Instead I ponder
The River Cleansing

Thoughts form and fade
Perhaps mother and I
Forgot the wrong secrets

Great Grandfather built his empire
By pressing people down
(People like Hine)
And then selling the blood
That weeped out
From their shattered bones

So we have remembered the pain
And how to hide it
Under our Presbyterian thumbs
And with white cloth

Love, however
Is what felled him
So we have forgotten it
Disregarding any heart
That could be fond
As weak and waning

Though now,
That my blood is capable
Of a golden fondness
I have come to believe
That Great Grandfather felled himself
And stole hope from three generations

Blinding us
From what is truly good
Like the green love
Of leaves and sunshine;
The sea’s soft summertime embrace
Or warm lips
On a cool night

Hine does not know
Her Great Grandfather
His name nor mistakes
Perhaps that is why
She is so kind
And so wise

Because you know,
We become the stories
We tell ourselves at night

At First Light by Beth Lynch

The leaves are white
A gleaming coat of frost
Dances on their tips
Sharp as a knife
Cold as fresh morning air
The first bite of winter

Birds like statues
Watching, waiting
Eyes darting
Like the wings of an early morning sparrow
Trying not to freeze as well

Then everything turns to gold
Whispering shadows play havoc upon the green grass
Teasing and flickering, and all the while
The leaves unfurl
And a sigh of relief
Not one that you
Or I could hear
But one that is there even so

A single bellbird calls
Then falls still
And the whole world is silent
Just a whisper in the trees
A murmur in the winds
And the music of grass as it dances
Allowing just a moment
For the gentlemen to bow

Thoughts of a Boy’s Home by Beth Lynch

He sits
In the shade of the olive tree
His face in profile
Like a hawks
One of the ones his father used to use for hunting
His eyes are shadowed, gleaming in the dark like fireflies
And his lips
Are bruised cherries
His words thrown away
Like unwanted childrens toys
Until boredom forces you to pick them up
And play

But he never liked games
Card tricks
They were beneath him
He told me that
And I remember
A bright summers day
In the dead of winter
A frost on the lake
And a gleaming pool of silver
-Or were those his eyes?
The flowers were diamonds at the waters edge
The hills filled with gold
Just as the sunlight crests the hill
And everything is gone

I would be a rich man to live here
He said
A throne of forest wood
A crown of clouds
Would the mountains be his home?
Silver spires that rule over even the most priceless jewels
But these are the true jewels
The dirt, the grass, the flowers at the water’s edge
And all just over the fence

He sits
In the shade of the olive tree
Still as a stone
One of the ones we skipped over the lake in autumn
But not frozen
Then everything is gone

Quarter to Eight by Beth Lynch

It’s quarter to eight
Quick, check your school bag
Have you got your lunch box?
A kiss from mum, then you have to go
You forgot something
You always do
No nevermind
You’ve got it

Your feet freeze in their clumpy old school shoes
One, two, one, two
Stimp stamp stomp
There’s ice on the pavement
Better avoid that
You don’t want to fall
But maybe you will anyway, and then what will you do?
You might miss the bus
Better walk faster then

The fields are dusty pink
As the streetlights glow
The sky is just starting to lighten
It’s too early, really
Huff and puff, up the hill
Like a nursery rhyme
But you can’t even remember those anymore
There’s just too much stuff
You have things to do, and places to go
There’s just no time
And I think you’d better check your watch
It’s quarter to nine now

The Theoretic Poem of Starlight by Beth Lynch

We see them
But they don’t see us
It’s curious, isn’t it

In a way, they are the first light
Before candles
Before fire
Even outlasting our earth itself

If I were to look up
The sun would burn
And my sight would be lost for a moment
But that is nothing to staring up
Thousands of little fires
Glow so bright
They are ever-beautiful

It’s just chunks of rocks
Swimming in the inky blackness of an endless open space
Stars are just words
That are twisted by dreamers
To seem like the gods ignited them for us
As if we are SPECIAL

But if they could dream
Of brightness in a starless sky
Then why can’t I?