Benefit Cuts Poem

1. Wear your old jeans. Wear the matted navy jumper that is too short in the arms, and your hair in jagged waves that might drop intrepid surfers. Your bones will be a metronome for time spent waiting.

2. In the Queen St WINZ office, they have hired Pasifika girls to sit in rows and stare at monitors. It will make you feel ashamed to tell your story to a girl that knows your ‘aiga or that went to your school. Notice that she is averting her eyes. Notice that she can only enter words that will fit on the screen. Most of your words will spill away unaccounted for.

3. So offer the caseworker some beauty or some truth. Imagine truth like tiny purple violets, like felt hearts on tender stems or dragon eyes. Truth is something she can’t recognise.

4. Notice the two security guards. Notice the space around them, how they face towards the applicants like keepers. One has knotted fingers. While he talks, he drums his long fingers on his slacks like a tell.

5. Notice we are all a little dirty. There is a man wearing his best shirt. There is a girl with a beautiful rash bursting like a flower on her chest and neck. There are older, Pasifika men wearing the suits they wore to their weddings. There is a blonde kid saying he has been going to church, he wants to change his life, his whole attitude. All the while, his hands grasp his arms, and he rocks in his thin, white tee-shirt. Know that there no boxes on the screen that his story will fit into.

6. Know that we are first world poor. Let it roll on your tongue. That kind of unlucky generates it’s own disdain.

7. Ask to see the manager.

8. Ask to see Paula Bennett. Ask how much she spent to come up with the three new categories. Ask whether alongside the flagrant messaging,  we can have royal blue balloons and ticker tape too. Suggest that if we put on some country music and bought in some tumblers of gin, we could have a desperation party.

9. Notice how everybody shakes.

10. Ask to see the Donkey King. Ask him politely whether he believes in hubris.

11. Keep your head full of Katherine Mansfield. The trick with being a beneficiary is too hold tightly against the roaring tide.


8 thoughts on “Benefit Cuts Poem

  1. Kia ora Tulia, love the poem, would it be okay to re-publish it on my Home Page? Have a look at WednesdayBusk website and see what you think. Renée

    1. Thanks Renée, I checked out your website and I’m delighted that you liked my poem. I hope we get to have an actual conversation at some point. I’d love to discuss writing/ being a lesbian writer.

  2. Had good comments re your poem so that’s great. Sorry about the link – I did try and will definitely get a link up tomorrow. Have got a friend much more adept than I am at doing it and will contact her. Keep writing poems, Renée

    1. Hi Renée, I’m not worried about the link if it’s a hassle. Great to hear that you had good comments 🙂 Let’s try and arrange a chat online or by skype if you can. I have an exam next Thursday that I am busy preparing for, but the week following would be good if that worked for you. My email address is

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