blackmail press 34
Catriona Britton
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
I am in my second-year at the University of Auckland studying a conjoint Law and Arts degree. In 2011, I was published in the New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology and my short story was a finalist in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards. In 2012, a different short story was a finalist in the Auckland University of Technology’s Creative Writing Competition.
Unwarranted Perceptions

Mister was never a gambling man. He just preferred the cross-pollination of arrogant races and the tight-lipped “lock my lips and throw away the key” kind of controversy that was a prerequisite in this society. He would walk in three-step, like a waltz, because he knew t-h-r-e-e was a special number and it reminded him of hide ‘n’ seek, counting down three...

Mister would twirl his way round puppets on light toes, provided the occasional stumble wasn’t too publicised and humiliating. He was hell-bent on perfection, punctuality and performance – the top man for the top job, but soon realised he had put all his chips in too quickly and the stakes were high.
Things went wrong that night.

1. -

2. -

3. And his lips curled inwards while he spat out profanities you goddamn shit, you know bugger all and I didn’t have an epiphany, no, I just watched as he blew his brains out.

news speak

factual ferocity spills

from mouthsbrains


received not from the person

at the end of the line

but commuters who

shame the name



rolling eyes

stamping pseudo-intellect

that eventually short circuits

under the pressure of

too many statistics / too many dates

and name suppression becomes a thing of thepast

with 2 degrees of gossip

give me some

filthy 80s pop revival
and watch me chug and choke
on steel kisses and rhododendron

while a Mexican wave of
leaves rustle the treetops, we dance jerkily
like systematic robots and
imagine ourselves in a utopian jungle

trees | shrubs | rivers wild and woolly
   and mud that steals your

we put Guns n’ Roses to shame
and your air guitar screams
squeals with pain as I watch you
impersonate monkeys on hind legs

inhale sharply – grains scar your throat and the sensation burns, burns.
    struck out
red trickles down the contour of your shoulder, like jam / like sweet pomegranate.
  you fall | g r i n d
into the dirt, screams. burrowing your knuckles to create pebble-shaped pools of sweat. and they dance, dance with ritual precision, each with a thyrsus – mad – obsessed – enraptured by the smell of desperation and sorrow. until they reach their crescendo where you tremble and your chest heaves
   you gasp for sunlight.