Introducing the March 2010 Readers – 1. Kona Macphee

Kona Macphee was born in London in 1969 but grew up in Australia, where she flirted with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic. Eventually she took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995. She now lives in Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and tutor, and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company. Kona received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004, and her second collection, Perfect Blue, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2010.

The invention of the electric chair

All the slow purposes that make a tree
were in you once – to grow; to gauge
in every measured angle of your leaves
that moving target, light; to hold
through winter like an indrawn breath; to feel
the buzz of resurrection borne on spring.

As neutral wood suborns to dark intents
of blame, in icons hewn and nailed –
the scaffold and the catherine wheel,
the cross and gallows: symbols of
a skill that’s more than carpentry,
and deeply less than human – so, lost tree,

this timber rictus of your supple green
has made a foursquare chair. Now history
awaits in thrall the painted scene
that might beatify your sacrifice –
those drooping limbs surrendered to your arms;
that smoking moment held: a Pietà.

This poem was first published in New Welsh Review, Issue 86, Winter 2009.

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