blackmail press 26
Gary Langford
New Zealand

from: Angipanis of the Abanimal People - Andy Leleisi'auo
Gary Langford is a writer in Melbourne and Christchurch. He is the author of 24 books, of which 12 are in fiction and 8 are in poetry. His 9th poetry collection, Rainwoman and Snake is to appear shortly. His plays and scripts have also been produced and performed in Australia and New Zealand. A CD of him reading his poetry has been produced by The Poetry Archives, England:
Gary is the coordinator, NZ poets, The Poetry Archives, England.

The Graveyard is Lost at Okuku

(Found when I researched Newlands; lost afterwards)

A deep wind came in the wintery search,
walking callow fields of memories,
near where a small church once was,
built from rusty pine; staring eyes.
Light wasted away in each generation.
They refused to be famous to themselves.
One loved animals more than people.
Another gave birth to a cricket team,
locking herself up in the pavilion,
disliking everybody, including herself,
buried as Beatrice, 1905-1952,
‘tired and relieved to go.’
God was seldom on their side.
They sang hymns as poorly as wheat crops.
Reverend Brown kept his sermons short,
content to leak under the trees
before going on to the next church in the field.
Two generations later, from the city,
all I could find was tussock,
stones gathered in corner piles.
Spirits murmured, ‘we did what we could,’
not that I really heard them,
more something soft in the wind.
My ancestors refused to whisper any further,
ignoring me when I spoke to them.
Faces were not even a memory
in the land of the lost graveyard.


I am daylight home, texture short, wrinkled down.
Age steadfastly gathers around my eyes.
My lids slowly wear away in the pallid rot.
Outside birds shriek like pocket rockets,
convinced they own each miniature space of mine.
They are indifferent to my head or nose.
I am treated as a toilet bowl with a whistle.
My occupants are determined to return me to youth.
My skin is burnt and peeled. I groan. Nobody listens.
I witness seeds in the struggle line,
murder, along with invasions on the sex front.
Nobody asks me to be a witness.

I am darkness home, lengthening fine, filling you.
My hands are corridors to your bedroom,
casting myself as your intrepid lover.
My voice is the door, gleefully opening desire.
Night dances on your mouth; soft wood rings.
You become a cloud, evaporating into stars.
I read you better than a book; we are a play,
each other’s closest and dearest character.
Life’s guillotine chants cheerfully to us all.
You dream of being air lifted out of trouble.
I know what you want in the thickest night
when you never will. I am hope. I am the house.

The Mayor’s Wife

The Mayor’s wife upsets the garden voters,
encouraging her husband to concrete them down
in the delicate suburbs of roses.
She gently strikes the sharp points,
whistling cheerfully to herself.

She sits at his elbow,
pushing away any uncertainty,
labelling opposition as the enemy,
whose ideas need to be shot down,
just in case they grow beyond the budget.

Her parents are frightened of her,
a girl who let them know what she wanted.
‘Get your muscles of opinion into gear,
or I will switch on a pain in the neck.’
They got drunk with joy at her wedding.

The mayor chants his ‘yes dear’ mantra.
She smiles, seeing him as a romantic,
prepared to fire off words into the public,
in spite of knowing each one weakens them both.
Not once does he object when she pulls the trigger.

The Melbourne Arsonist

He walks along the streets of childhood.
He ponders the sight of a ten years old; himself.
The kid is lighting a fire and chuckling.
The fumes are untouchable.
He remembers the eyes of his parents.
Neither cursed him which was a disappointment.

All buildings are burnt along the Yarra.
A vapour; people will be gas to the bone,
in a return to themselves.
He lights the very foundations of the city.
He waits to witness the truest burn,
convinced he is invisible to everyone.

His skin melts teeth in a hollow hole.
Cars disappear, glass and petrol imploding.
He runs to the centre of the fire.
Body parts; more gas.
The sun welcomes him, volts sizzling.
He is nitrogen, open and light.

He cannot be measured in degrees.
‘It’s where I was born; it’s what I carry on.’
Not once does he question himself.
Final thoughts are the lightest gas,
floating where people briefly choke.
Melbourne does not know it is burning.

Doctor Who

For Natasha Richardson

You do not understand who he is,
too ill to remember names,
let alone seven syllables of liturgy.

Who people ask when you mention him?
You agree. Doctor Who is easy to pronounce.
You're kidding? People appear stunned.

The priest starts speaking in Latin.
You listen to your blood cells sob,
unable to measure up as they used to.

Like youth. Like taking everything for granted.
You dream: a killer comes over the hill,
carried by a lonely vessel.

Your eyes are moonstruck overnight.
You are marching the streets of childhood,
golden summers; your body is a friend.

You smartly breathe the rich air.
The skeleton dances; you measure it up.
You are the carpenter of the straight hand.

Figures around you shake their heads.
They are preparing to auction you off.
Only Doctor Who refuses to bid.

Death in the Province

The town hall lies in decay,
photographs of past mayors
weighed true by chains:
snow floats down in summer.

I walk in the newness of a child,
along the decayed roads of thought.
A man is invented under a tree,
impenetrable to doubt and worry.

He is Homer but only in the cartoon,
able to sing out of a bottle,
‘all you need is love….love….’
out of tune and happy.

The woman is the provincial walker.
She is bent. She is tired,
still able to give birth to sound.
Her eyes are orchestral instruments.

She walks about with a knife,
tightly held as a passing truth.
The province thirsts for a previous age,
crops of gold; pubs replacing churches.

Contracts are thinner than pencil marks,
signatures as fake as the perfect.
We crave; we list and love ourselves
in the brevity of rightness.

I am a small canto in my province,
referred to in chokes of laughter.
I lay it all aside, returning for more
as if I am still a hapless child.