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.

On the building site for a new library
for Win

The machines moved in
On Saturday
Scraping the back lawn off
Like green paint
And the rose beds dead flat
Like they bad never been at all
And shoved the blossom trees
Out of the way
So easily, you wouldn’t believe —

They bad just started blooming
Silly things
Not knowing any better.

Come Monday
Linda stormed the cloakroom
Like a trooper
Swearing destruction of all bulldozers
And bureaucrats —

The bastards
The bloody obscene bastards
Make me want to puke —

She told us
As we moved toward nine o’clock
Adjusting faces in the mirror
To look like nothing
Had happened
Shoving things into lockers
And images behind our eyes
Out of the way
Of duty —

Roses unfolding in the morning sun
People being peaceful under midday trees
Grass glowing emerald
In the early evening light —

Thankful that we never knew
Didn’t have to forget
Trees gardens buildings
Yes, even buildings
Before these ones
Or what the site was like —

And could be again
So they warn us —

When it was sea, all sea
And only sea.