Writing by current SIWA members
Recipe for a unitary state
by Gail Ingram
First published in Manifesto (OUP 2017)
Take those purple hills, lumpy
with glacial form, strewn
with ancient herb & kettle lake.
Add merino for a living, some rabbit
& stoats for sport. Let stoat prey &
rabbit proliferate. Introduce
Collesi, a beneficial virus
– sure to choke off the excess
flavour of rabbit. By now, the herbs
will have reduced to hieracium
and dust. Pour in a cow
or two, along with most of
the braided river. It will reinvigorate
the capital gain. Don’t mind
the extra nutrients in the run-off
– what you lose in black stilt
you’ll gain in the creaming.
You’ll know it’s done
when it has reached a smooth
grassy consistency with no hint
of all that tasteless tussock.
Her hair is as thick and coiled as copper wire, tough as steel, the colour of rust. Each morning she warms her rollers, stands to face the mirror, stares at the stranger in the glass.
It took a thousand years to make, the pigment, the ore – small beads extracted from her ancestors, blended together piece by piece. She lifts a roller to her scalp, pulls her hair with an angry tug. Stream rises from the roller, twirls above her head.
You must bring it to the boil, let the air react with the impurities, escape as fumes. Once heated it can be squeezed between two plates, flattened into rods. She moves with practiced ease, feels the heat flow through her locks, electron to electron like the current in a circuit. The hair glows hot beneath the rollers, slowly cools into malleable strips. She molds them into a ball, stiff and solid around her head, puts on her pearls and blue blazer.
She stands in front of the mirror, pats her hair. She can see it if she squints her eyes, a solid figure, hard as a bronze statue – the iron lady.
Round and round went the wooden spoon, in a pan so big it could hold half-a-dozen heads, should she ever convert to cannibalism; fortunately, in those years, it was vegetables, fruits and berries.
She lived with a lion and his cubs. And when she wasn’t stirring in the pan, she would throw them meat to stall their prowling
But sometimes exhaustion claimed her, and the cubs would find her supine on an eiderdown, in a navy and cyclamen patterned bikini, limbs splayed to the sun – baking, burning. The shadow cast by the cubs signalled a return to shackles. She would scramble to her feet, grab her lady’s fork and begin gardening with a ferocious energy.
As temperatures soared, jars sterilised in an oven set to 100 degrees. As weed piles wilted, apricots simmered. Upon the bench, an early morning batch of tomato chutney securely sealed within glass chambers. The cubs counted to eighteen with salivating mouths.
On nights when the lion roared once too often, she would bravely roar back, and the lion, realising her tiredness, would reach a clumsy paw, an apology of sorts.
Come morning, after the lion departed the compound to hunt in the concrete jungle, and the cubs went gambolling from 9 till 3, the woman would stir her fragrant concoctions, not minding the labours stretching ahead, for beneath her dressing gown was her navy and cyclamen bikini.