Very Good Work


(a work in progress)

All I recall
of the classrooms
is being small
and sky
through giant windows
and giant trees outside
and a ban
on chatter.

All I recall
of school reports
is “Rachel could do better”
(how did they presume
to know?)
and “Rachel
talks too much.”

When I found
those old reports
all I saw
was “Captain of the B Team”
and “very good
very good very good.”
Why didn’t anybody

poem by rachel mcalpine CC BY 2.0 photo of Christchurch Girls High School old building in public domain

Poem for my big sister Jill


I wanted to give you a poem
eighty years back
when you were first-born
and armies were rising
and peace receding.
You learned about consultation
in the womb.

I wanted to give you a poem
to thank you
for protecting me
and holding my hand
and showing the way
and making peace
without any fights or feuds
or atom bombs.

The poem sat in my head for weeks
waiting for Mother’s attention.
On a short dark day
lop-sided day
turn-around day
a fence of shards and sand
and shrapnel sprang up
between the poem and me.

So I clambered over the fence
ripping my shorts
on splinters
lost a shoe
and clambered back to you
the almost perfect baby
to give you what you lacked
the one thing all big sisters need:

your very own big sister
just like Jill
to shelter and protect you
and hold your hand
and take the lead
on dark days
and on bright days too
the way big sisters do.

with love from Rachel 23 June 2016