an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Hebe Kearney

the iris

Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 15 of Tarot #4
(June 2022)

the iris flowered today and i am not speaking to you.
its purple so deep almost black, and that
is the colour your heart turned, too.
i miss you.

when you gave it to me
you said:
be careful.

but i let weeds grow in its pot;
becoming a miniature, tangled jungle
bright with roaring dandelions.
i ignored you both.

when i weeded it a month ago
i was sure it was dead;
its leaves pallid and feeble,
i tugged at them
with clumsy heavy gloves.

but there it is, flowering anyway
for the first time in years,
an ominous beauty.

i want to tell you about it badly,
but pain holds back my hand
from reaching out to you
overgrown as you are
with dark anger.


Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 44 of Tarot #4
(June 2022)

though the front door  
into to a hazy mist of talk &  laughter 
/ this is the party / 
i am unlike other children.  
i am never babysat. 

inside is familiar / paintings all over 
& a golden cat with a rhythmical wave 
& a black stone panther in full snarl 
& a cornucopia of books. 
this week, i learned cornucopia.  
abundance; ramshorn; small fruits. 

can i get you anything? 
i am a guest here / i clutch lemonade & look brave. 
mum fills her wineglass a second time. i keep tally. 
everything is numbered. 

there is a real cat here somewhere 
i want to find / make a circuit 
into garden / up steps / through backdoor / down hall 
it’s a race! quick! watch shadows for fur but 
all are smooth / frank is hiding. 
humans too loud. 

outside now / on lawn chairs 
swinging feet / dusk begins 
i am unlike other children. 
i am asked questions / i answer  
i say i read books & write stories. 
they like this & praise.   
out of lemonade. 

mum is over by the ash tray 
foot to foot shifting / crossing uncrossing arms. 

dad is unmoving at garden table 
leaned forward nodding / someone is saying things right. 
both glow golden in dusk / radiate / 
another new word / means better than glow. 
everything is coloured. 

bored now 
go to look at paintings in lounge / paintings look back. 
bald man, dark eyes / takes up most of wall  
& wins staring contest. 
i curl up out of his eyeline. 
glad i brought a book. 
/ animorphs / 

lost sight of mum & dad! 
make a circuit looking.  
into garden / up steps / through backdoor / down hall. 

a room open / light inside / sound inside. 
see mum’s frizzy head 
/ relief / 
‘mum!’ step inside / dad there too & others 
stand looking at the closet / slid open, 
strange plants like alien hands hang upside down, 
dried / mummified.  
room smells heavy / dark. 

mum & dad turn to me, faces saying 
you shouldn’t be seeing this. i say 
‘what’s that?’ 
‘it’s… lavender,’ says mum, ‘drying lavender.’ 

i am unlike other children 
& i am pretty sure adults don’t smoke
/ lavender /


Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 10 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

the bed is hungry
it swallows my numb face
my face is hungry
passing it on

the pillars of my eyes
ration sleep
a fluorescent line behind the cornea
a small irreverent darkness

it inched away long ago
down in the dirty weeds
hang on just a sec
it takes a while to be brought back

the bed is ravenous
now its cavernous
form engulfs me wholly the bed
has digested me i am

bones in the mattress springs
sinew in the wooden frame
dust in the fabric

almost ghostly the bed
whispers to me while i sleep

once you were a child
once you were a child
once you were a child
but not for long enough

depression tangles

Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 14 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

sometimes, mum,
you would still bring the jewellery box out:

light wooden and two-tiered.
inside it, a tangled nest of necklaces,
like silver snakes twirled and coiled,
or tree roots grown together.

spread on the bed
where you had stayed for weeks,
its contents would writhe and glint in the low sun;
metal knots tight like your white knuckles,
waiting to be eased apart
with patient, small hands.

i loved to do this for you,
loving best the few gold chains
and pendants with dark, dragon-eye stones.
i wanted to know
where they all came from.

tugging, easing, coaxing,
working and reworking the cold brambles,
you and i,
in the weak winter sunlight;
the rings on your pale hands
slipping and shaking.

with time, the
metallic birds’ nests
began to resolve into smooth strands,
like our frizzy hair when wettened;
and we laid each to rest,
back on the bright-green felt lining the drawers.

then they would slide closed,
and the box go back out of reach.
you would be tired.

in a month or so we would do it again,
when the knots had regrown like weeds;
you had wilted further.
and i often wondered, mum,
how come it all
always ended up
in such a terrible tangle?


Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 26 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

socrates never touched young boys

he never
took his grubby fingers and pressed them
into soft taut flesh

socrates was never touched by anyone

never engaged in the carnal, he
was all white and pure like a lily
or the beard of a ruddy santa clause-like god

socrates never took it up the ass

he in fact did not have an ass
just a smooth crack
with no weather wind or rain no
erosion or defecation just
abstract ideas like clouds
like the rope he was suspended from.

socrates never gave anyone a gobby

out the back of the agora
he wanted the theory of beauty without
having to take his himation down to the river
and wash the semen out

socrates was elevated above all matters of sex

you wouldn’t find him
up the front of a rainbow march in leathers
socrates was no one’s daddy

all the boys he loved
were loved in mind alone
and the greek makes this clear
by using kalos for both
sexy and gifted so no

socrates never took it gave it
or shared it around
as was culturally expected
because apparently

an absence of evidence
is evidence of abstinence

piha rescue

Hebe Kearney

Published on
page 41 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

the west coast sea doesn’t welcome you
it resists like a creature
pressing its lips tight
while you force yourself down
its frothy throat

into its insides like
feeding yourself to it
and in this act
at mercy to its deep hunger

the glass-clear teal
of waves washing over and again
foam aerated,
churning and so
open and un-open
like a door is

so Other
while you do your best dabbling
at its tonsils keeping
all your questions locked
behind your teeth, you are

simply salty
bedraggled and grinning
within this wild world