This is a collection of writing that posits the very real paradox of the precarious and staunch (female) body as lived and encountered within society, front and centre. It looks at the ways in which certain life structures draw out or exaggerate the relationship between these forces—the weak, the strong. The collection explicitly folds out from a selection of poems by J. C. Sturm, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant Māori women writers of the twentieth century. Sturm’s poetry is placed in relation to new writing by five women working today: Ruth Buchanan, Anna Gritz, Sarah Hopkinson, Hanahiva Rose, and Sriwhana Spong.

Letter to Jean in India

The world liquefies tonight
And drains away.
Dreams become awakenings.
The old bloom young again,
The young wither happily.
Lovers and murderers
Are secretly close friends.
The dying
Dig their graves on time.

Bear with me,
It is not easy to say:
So it seems
Is what it seems any more
If it ever was;
Uncertainty remains
The only constant;
Belief must always be
A stranger
To fact or fiction.

I fear the coming cold.
The past looms nearer, faster.
The dark thickens
With the quickening dead.
Not for the first or last time
But nearly,
I ask you
What else must be undone
How much more unlearned
Before the end
Begins again?

Please answer as usual
With prayers
(Any old spares will do)
And send them by incense.
Will you return by then
Or not at all?
Find enclosed
Some second-hand wishes
All I have left
For your heart’s home.
From —
               you can guess who.