Sheila and the Honourable Member 6.

cover of book: STAY AT THE DINNER PARTY

In Luck

The Honourable Member is in luck
everyone knows it is tough
to live four days a week
without a person

the Honourable Member used to screw
the typists. this is the casual
normal rule of thumb

now he can withdraw
to the lady with purple carpets
who knows the way to the top

oh how the Honourable Member grieved
over his lonely friend who cruised
for comfort

[I censored a verse just in case]

you nameless others
in your fragile enclaves
you who sneer at wives
spare an embrace
for the overtly married

Rachel McAlpine 1977


Those were hideous times for anyone gay, let alone a gay politician. It wasn’t until 1986 that The New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed, legalising consensual sex between men aged 16 and older. Sheila even in her personal pain has room for compassion.

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Sheila and the Honourable Member 1.

cover of book: STAY AT THE DINNER PARTY

Now’s a good time to republish this sequence of poems about a Member of Parliament, his wife Sheila, and the other woman, the lady with purple carpets. I wrote them 40 years ago, swept up in the second wave of feminism. Today the power imbalance between the genders in the stressful environment of parliament has changed … not much. 

This is me, Sheila, talking

this is me (Sheila) talking
I have seen fingers
crack in the ring
like girdle scones

this is me (Sheila) here
this is me this is me
I have seen women settle like
junket, I have seen water curdle

listen this is me
this is Sheila this is me
I am a person
who knows things

I have a small brown voice
here it is in my handbag
south southwest southeast
little voice is restless

these are my hands the skin
is lifting drifting freckling
covers the blood lumping
inside the bones are grinding
these are my hands crackling

I am not ready to die

listen to me it is always
nearly too late
this is me (Sheila) talking
this is me

Rachel McAlpine 1977

If you appreciate these rip-roaring, pretty vulgar poems, please share.

Photo of an older woman's hands
Our hands talk. Let our voices also speak.