who was born manual
who longed to be electric
to go everywhere at the flick
of a switch
met a witch
at the corner of Quinn’s Road
where the virgilia tree hangs its palepink sweet-pea flowers.

I’ve been waiting for you for hours
and years since you were born, Daniel
to show you the trick that will change you
from manual to electric. Watch closely.

Startled into silence, Daniel stared,
his eyes growing round in a circle
instead of eye-shaped.

There, the witch said. That’s the trick. Surprise does it,
and remembering to think or say every hour
and sometimes every minute of every hour, I wonder or I see in my mind’s eye
or simply Why, why, why?

Then the witch of Quinn’s Road vanished
among the palepink flowers
of the virgilia tree.

And wink-quick manual Daniel
became Why-electric.

from The Goose Bath (Vintage, 2006), and in Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008), © Janet Frame Literary Trust 2006, 2008, used by permission of The Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd.

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