Index of injuries

Harbourside post wrapped in colourful knitting, with bird foot. Ferry sailing in the distance.
Harbourside post wrapped in colourful knitting, with bird foot. Ferry sailing in the distance.
Did someone break her leg?

age 7, concussion
from playing bullrush
age 17, cracked metatarsal
from dancing rock and roll
age 40: carpal tunnel syndrome
from typing on the fly
age 55: broken wrist
from roller blading
age 75: sore knee
from doing Zumba
age 78: sore knee
from walking on my knees.
Spot a pattern here?
you always go too far.”


Adjustable desk top in plywood
Adjustable desk top made in New Zealand. Relevance to the poem—you decide!

We were taught
to cross our ankles
not our knees
when seated
for reasons
of aesthetics
and decorum.

A lesson lost
on all today
apart from
and models.

Poem and pic by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0. Now why did I choose that photo…

A new long poem coming up in bits and pieces: Long Song of the Unyoung

I’ve begun a whole book in loose verse about ageing, and I debated whether to post it on this blog (which, after all, is dedicated to my poems) or on my regular blog, Write Into Life. The other contender won, for two reasons:

  • because I want this book to be read like easy prose, and it may appeal to people who don’t usually read poetry
  • because Write Into Life uses a plan that permits audio files, and I want to read the poems aloud to you.

If you follow Write Into Life you’ll catch every piece of this read-aloud poem as I post it. I’ll keep posting poems here, but most of my energy goes into the book at present. I’ll be back, but for today’s poem, visit Write Into Life!

Photo of an unpruned Iceberg rose bush outside a Wellington cottage
The beauty of the unpruned poem or rose bush

Long Song of the Unyoung
is an unpruned rose bush
scrappy and vivid and wild.

I should have saved that insight
for the work in question
but I have squandered it on you.

Then again, unpruned bushes
do squander beauty
so squandering is perfectly in line

Photo and poem by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0. That means, go ahead and share them both, as long as you attribute them to me.



Poets love patterns and surprise


Poets love patterns and surprise
and every morning I get both
a rigid routine and a shock
I wake at 6 and think some thoughts
excitement rising all the while
(I woke up! I get to live another day!)
then pee and poo and clean my teeth
and meditate and sort the cat
I celebrate rules and rituals
and habits and patterns and clocks
On to the deck  in pyjamas and bare feet
to a sky bursting with mystery
like a child with a secret
that won’t be a secret for long
then I do tai chi in the same old place
a world that is new every day
is it frosty is it misty is it rainy is it fine
does the air cling and kiss today
or push my hands and slip away
does it whip me from the south
is it black, is it white, is it thick, is it thin
does it spin, does it spit icy teeth
does the air breathe Antarctica Geneva or Fiji
Surprise! Surprise! It’s a brand new day.
Right, so I do tai chi, now there’s a word
today will I do it fast or slow, high or low
will I dance it or chop it or ooze it today?
and then
when I’m done
I stop
I open my arms I swallow the sky
and I enunciate
in purest selfishness
Good morning world! I am still with you!
or once in a while
Good morning world.
What can I do for you today?

poem and photo by Rachel McAlpine cc by 2.0


This poem is part of an out-of-control all-encompassing book of read-aloud poems about my boot camp for the bonus years and the terrible task of being old.
 Don’t expect anything fancy: I do like fancy poems but with this monster I’m in a hurry, I’m 78, and this is the bit I wrote this morning. 

The hardest part

Homeless person's shanty, Philadelphia. Photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0
Homeless person’s shanty, Philadelphia. Photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0

with Bruce

my parents were pretty much
well really they were addicts
that put a massive fact on me

welcome to my life
fall into a dark pit
I didn’t know what homeless was

the hardest part of homelessness
the hardest part was
hardest part

you get bored
and then you start adopting
to try to be a father

no one’s there to pick you up
I gave my heart to Jesus Christ
I ended up in this place

I feel like I’m still homeless
because of the past
just be kind, really

Voices Without Homes are mined by Rachel McAlpine from the pages of Te Ha Tangata: the breath of the people, a human library on homelessness. Editor Elspeth Tilley, published 2018 in Aotearoa New Zealand by Te Puaroha Compassion Soup Kitchen and Massey University School of English & Media Studies.

photo Kevin Burkett cc by-sa 2.0

Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness
Te Ha Tangata. A human library on homelessness