On rough slab tables cheese cubes and pickled onions in chipped bowls crowd flagons of cheap claret and scallop-shell ashtrays overflowing with damp butts. Mattresses, brown-stained and leaking kapok, get dragged out. Incense smoulders. Talk buzzes. Verwoerd to Vietnam, Austen to Woolf, Friedan to Steinem. The lecturer arrives late from another faculty party, eyes roving over faces and bodies. An expert on the enigmatic depths of freshwater lakes, he’s a hit with his students. They hang on everything he says, his sorcerer’s apprentices. A rusty velvet cushion is propped at his back. They offer Marlboros, a glass of wine. Party picks up speed. Young men circle, young women bunch. A student strips off her crochet top, tosses back long red hair. Reclines on a mattress, a Matisse odalisque. Dylan growls from a turntable. Record ends, spins un-noticed, needle peeling off black vinyl like shed snakeskin. Someone takes pity on its silent scream, flips it.
to a jungle beat
a lone hyena
on the prowl
for the weak
He’s bored, stands up, impatient now. Waylays women heading for the bathroom, grabbing them, kissing them hard. Some push him off with embarrassed snickers. He shrugs. Next! Matter-of-fact in his single-mindedness is this man whose pale dutiful matronly wife has settled their infant son and daughter to sleep and now waits for him to come home. The redheaded student adopts a half-lotus, flips her hair off her shoulders with raised arms. Stretches, big-cat-like, moves into the hallway. Slides into his arms as if she’s always fit. They disappear together into a back bedroom. “Lay Lady Lay” spins on repeat. Morning seeps through mildewed bamboo blinds.
dark still waters
honor stubbed out
ten years married
fake smiles souring
—One of three unranked Finalists in MacQ’s
is a retired botanist and science journalist who has lived in Canberra, Australia with her family for more than four decades. A photography enthusiast and keen world traveller, she is a late-comer to haiku. Her poetry and artworks appear in international journals, have been featured on Japanese television, and have won awards in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, and the United States.
To learn more, see Ms. McGregor’s
Poet Profile at The Haiku Foundation.