Janet Newman


for Ian Wedde

When I wrap my hand around the wooden handle of the pump
     screwed onto the 44-gallon diesel drum -

When I wrap my hand around the oval handle
     and pull it out and push it down -

When I wrap my hand around the familiar handle and push it down
     and let it rise up inside my palm

I hear the gurgle of the diesel deep inside. I feel
     resistance, feel the diesel suck up into the pipe.

When I wrap my hand around the wooden handle smoothed
     by my father’s palm and see the diesel gush from the metal spout

I hold the tin bucket in my left hand as he did in his right,
     the wire handle caught inside my fist,

my fingers rolled inside my palm, my thumb across my knuckles
     (don’t put your thumb inside or it will break when you punch),

the wire handle cutting into the crease of my finger joints
     as the diesel gushes into the bucket

catching the air as when a cow arches her spine to piss
     and the urine blows back against her udder and the backs of her legs.

The fragrant blue diesel bubbles and spreads
     into a wide transparent flow.

When I climb onto the tractor, one foot on
     the gridded metal footrest, the other on the steering rod

and lift the bucket over the funnel,
     pouring the diesel into the wide metal mouth

until the bucket lightens and I upend it
     to slide out the last oily drops,

I am watching from the concrete floor,
     standing on the concrete beside the herringbone tread

of the rear tyre that is taller than I am
     and smells of smoke and rubber.

Even now it is hard to believe
     that this accustomed method could cease to exist

but I am reminded that this is the last drum
     and when it is empty

the Rural Fuel tanker driver will no longer point his electric nozzle
     into the hole in the top, screw on the cap and help my father

roll the drum across the concrete yard to the back of the cowshed -
     the roofed section - away from rain and sheltered from wind.

Rural Fuel has declared the custom unsafe and uneconomic.
     Instead, I will fill a yellow plastic can at the bowser in town.

The drum, the metal pump with its worn wooden handle,
     the funnel

and the tin bucket coated in a fine film of fragrant diesel
     will stay tucked in the warm comfort of the shed.



Janet Newman is a BA (hons) English student at Massey University. Newman writes: “‘Diesel’ was inspired by Ian Wedde’s wonderful ‘CO Products Ltd’ from Good Business (2009). I love the way the physical detail revives the memory of the father, and the loss.”