We Three

Frankie McMillan Click to

McMillanFrankie McMillan is a short story writer, poet, and creative writing tutor at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch. She is the author of The Bag Lady’s Picnic and Other Stories and Dressing for the Cannibals, a collection of poetry. In 2009, she was the winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society International competition.

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and almost there, the long gravel road, headlights sweeping the paddocks and he slows and says this is not working out and I say, sweetheart we are almost home but we both know it’s not really his home; he’s in a caravan while up on the hill my husband and children sit in electric light and I say, can’t it wait, and he says get in the back and I say this is not funny, and he pulls me from the car, a big fat moon in the sky, you fuck him all week he says and I hit him, get into the back he roars opening the door and possum traps and skinning boards tumble out and we struggle, his long hair in my eyes and I feel the gun under my back but maybe it’s a rifle but I don’t know anymore and far off my daughter practises her flute, the baby needs a bath and my husband peers into the night like he always does and if he peered a little harder he’d see to China which is where the man flees where my language will never reach him, where he will pedal through rice paddies, a bag of wool on his back, his memory short clippings and only in the next village a wife-to-be who teaches mathematics and if you calculate the odds of him finding her they are good but when my husband waits by the window he does not know this comfort, and when I open the door he is a statue and the children a frozen tableau on the couch, they thought they heard a scream, a terrible scream from the woods, but I laugh and say it was only a weka, my darlings, only a weka.


Note: A weka is a New Zealand native flightless bird.

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2 Responses to We Three

  1. Annie says:

    I usually like prose poems and this one is no exception. The poem perfectly captures the stream-of-consciousness structure with punctuation, progression of images, and the opening in the middle of the speaker’s internal monologue (and literally in the middle of a sentence). The poem has other conceived poetic elements such as the juxtaposition of natural versus artificial, and really strong imagery. I was particularly struck by the motif of repression, specifically of women, by both the duties of being a mother and a wife. The speaker feels trapped by these duties and also like she is natural and wild like the weka, yet neither her lover nor her family can understand her wild call for help.

  2. Laura Berry says:

    I liked this poem a lot when Max presented it during the SSA conference, and now I’ve come to like it even more, especially with the audio. Annie makes a really good point about the repression of the woman as a mother and a wife, but I’m wondering if that repression is also represented by her lover physically abusing her. I’m a bit confused by the exchange she has with him when he tells her to “get into the back,” which I’m guessing is the back of whatever vehicle they are in. Their “struggling” certainly seems like a physical altercation, but it also could be construed as sexual given their relationship and his instruction to “get into the back.” The fact that she feels the gun at her back makes this action seem much more violent, as well as the scream she says is “only a weka.” Still, the nature of this relationship with her lover does not seem like its the escape it was meant to be.

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