Tuesday Poem: ‘Between the lines’ by Rachel Bush

Between the lines

My first diary squashed a whole week
into two pages. I resisted,
wrote twice between each line and sometimes,
because I was fourteen and wanted
to be kissed, and because Mr Cave,
Mr St John, Mr Botting and
Mr Curran taught me and because
there as Bible Class on Mondays, and
because I rode my bike fast downhill
to Turuturu Mokai and my
best friends were Pam and Annette, and
our parents didn’t know we had the
answers, and because we could play
tennis on the Methodist courts, and
because the full circle of my dress
rose round me when I turned, and because
our bikes urged themselves to Nowell’s Lake
and Normanby, and because Patea
boys had written BERTHA in the dust
on their bus and waved to us, I had
too much to say and turned the pages
sideways, cross hatched, made a knitted script
that cannot be unravelled one stitch
then the next and wound into a ball.
Safe like that, committed but secret,
I have my own hieroglyphs, my own
small-town Rosetta stone.

“Between the lines” is from Rachel Bush’s most recent collection, Nice Pretty Things (VUP, 2011), and discovering her writing has been a revelation for me. It’s nice to know that I can still stumble across New Zealand writers who I’ve never read and fall in love with their writing. I’ve had the book for about a year, but the reason it had remained unread was because I found the cover uninspiring (sorry VUP!). I am sure there is a lesson in there for me.

For me, “Between the lines” captures the excitement and urgency of adolescence. I kept diaries–which will be buried with me–as a teenager, and as the poem says, “I had / too much to say” to use the lines. When I read the poem aloud to myself, I hear Bush’s many wonderful rhymes that aren’t obvious at first glance. The rhyme of the last two lines makes me want to do a little fist punch in the air!

For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Between the lines’ by Rachel Bush

  1. Just lovely! I love rediscovering writing, especially New Zealand writers – it’s such a revelation, to have an intimate connection with the environment they’re describing and the vernacular they’re using. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Absolutely lovely – it captures the feelings of an adolescent perfectly and brings back memories of my own diaries. I once put a half inch black border all round the page because the boy I was keen on didn’t speak to me at the youth club!

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