Tuesday Poem: “Banana & The Battered Woman Group” by Johanna Aitchison
Banana & The Battered Woman Group
After the other battered women go
get chicken for their rolls, after
the coleslaw & instant coffees
& fruit bursts, after the video,
(in which the man says to his wife,
“Come here,” he drags her down
& tells her she looks hot & gropes
her boobs in front of their son,
she swats him off like a fly,
“Not in front of Jarred!” she says;
& he suddenly decides her sexy outfit
is not so cool if it’s going
to be taken out on the street
where other men will stare at it,
so he says to the boy, “Mummy
looks like a real slut in that.”
The boy looks up at mummy
in a way that makes Banana think
he knows what “slut” means.
The boy drops his head
to his bag of chicken chippies),
Banana bites into her chicken roll
& says, “What an arsehole!”
the other battered women laugh,
& the very young woman
takes her dark glasses off.
© Johanna Aitchison
Posted here with permission.
About the Poem:
On November 13, I featured Johanna’s poem is anybody in there? from her 2007 collection A Long Girl Ago (Victoria University Press.) In discussion with Johanna over the poem, we agreed that it would also be exciting to feature a poem from her newer work as well, perhaps one of those she read as part of her guest appearance in the Canterbury Poets’ Collective’s spring season of poetry readings.
Johanna’s work is distinguished by her use of persona characters as “voices'” within her poems: “Miss Red” featured in A Long Girl Ago — “Banana” and “Miss Dust” make their appearance in her new work. Banana and the Battered Woman Group addresses one of the darker aspects of our society and picks up on the same sense of unease and disconnection I discussed in relation to is anybody in there?
There’s a wryness, too, a grounding in the mundane detail of chicken rolls and coleslaw that works as counterpoint to the darker elements, the man who “…says to the boy, “Mummy//looks like a real slut in that.” And finally, the moment of connection, a different kind of grounding in the final lines:
“…the other battered women laugh,
& the very young woman
takes her dark glasses off.”
I find it a powerful poem, in part because the “voice” is almost insouciant, the final lines so inconsquential—a young woman takes her dark glasses off—and yet that (almost) inconsequential action tells us so much — perhaps not everything we need to know, but close enough in the case of this particular young woman.
Johanna tells me that the poet: … lives in Palmerston North. She has just turned 40 and, to that end, she is running a lot (about 50km per week) in the hope of doing a marathon. She works as a lecturer at IPC and a tutor at Massey University. She is driven by her love of coffee.
I also feel that it is relevant to mention that A Long Girl Ago, Johanna’s 2007 collection fromVictoria University Press, was a finalist in the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and that Johanna was recently the Massey University Writer in Residence.
To read an interview with Johanna, see “Dedicated to the Write Path” on Stuff, here.
To read the featured poem on the Tuesday Poem Hub—and link to other Tuesday Poets posting around NZ and the world—either click here or on the Quill icon in the sidebar.