blackmail press 18
Iain Britton
New Zealand

Iain Britton's poetry is published internationally and nationally and his first collection of poems is to be published by Cinnamon Press (UK) in February 2008

Listening to music in a technicolour shirt …

plugged-in to a storm’s performance,
rain on the roof, fingers
rhythmically tapping, I meltdown to sounds

electrical. The music is repetitive, reverberating.
Lights in apartments flash on, buildings
become floodlit, The Square becomes crowded

and voices amplify. The night birds
vacate this parkland of concrete
and silhouetted humanity.

I’m in the company of a self portrait
leaning into the wind. We cross a bridge
to the accompaniment of ducks

blackened by a pond. Stars float
like chunks of bread. A woman is singing
about soldiers and battles and onward marches.

She bangs a tambourine,
waves a banner, smiles at us, a religious
hooker coveting her side of the road.

Wired-up to Queen, you jar to the depth-
charge boomings that rock your head.
I fix my attention to the pile up of a city

being pushed closer to windows. The moon
is but a slice. I can’t break the intrusive cycle
of music that moves us differently.

Like something chemical
it works on softening up my features. You
come at me, hawk hungry and tug at my clothes

The heart of this place wants to sleep,
pulses and shifts its orbit as laser lights
reopen old celestial scars.

For you who look at the moon

For you who look, I lie conveniently
grooved in a branch and hog to my chest
a full-bodied moon. I hog it to myself

and though it shines, it doesn’t move,
except to wipe itself against my clothes.
Creatures with large eyes,

like silver lids scuttle in the undergrowth,
cloaked passers-by glide imperceptibly,

stirring the feeding shrubs, or the stones
rolled down from the hills to drink at the river.
I hog the moon and shove it

into my heart, hide it from the likes of you.
I feel your envy. You’d worry it to death,
break it up for

its vital parts. You’d sell it off to lunar dealers,
to worshippers of graven images.
For you who look,

the tree that grips me won’t let me fall,
won’t let the moon pull away -
it coats me in white sap

and hangs me high
for safe keeping amongst the bones
of saviours.


Out of a table’s glass pool,
climbs a rope,

swaying to music. The
music is soft, persuasive –

it pulls the rope upwards
and a knot untwines

and flicks on a light. A
bookcase and an armchair

suddenly become visible.
A man is reading the collected

works of someone
who has just left the house,

gone through a gate
where it seems the ultra-

violet rays are kinder, less
harmful, the tangelos

stay longer, riper on trees.
I turn music into a hanging

garden of fruit.
A wall of flowers

becomes three dimensional
and a grandstand of diversity

and fragrance
thickens the atmosphere.

I snort it all in, like sherbet.
The rope

as if listening, bends over me,
the lamp held tightly

in its fist. I turn to read,
to sit in the chair - the book

on my lap. Whoever was here
has gone through the gate

where goats have redrawn
the map of a hill, where

tracks zigzag a short cut
to the top. He’s a speck

in a cloud. The lamp
shifts rhythmically. I pick at

words and chew on them.
I do it for appeasement.

Around me a pulpy forest
of succulents shuffle.

They crowd my breathing
and begin to green my skin.

The rope slithers past
and switches off the lamp.

It dangles in the darkness
and talks to me of sleep.

In Botswana, New Zealand

To anyone squatting in Botswana’s dirt
making thin carvings from thinner shadows,
London’s falling down

means nothing, Paris’ falling means nothing,
Nuku’alofa’s … nothing.
Cloistered in clothes,

you stand, foot heavy,
jammed in my doorway. You talk
to me of changes. Someone has

predicted Jupiter’s fall from space, Saturn’s
fall, then Pluto’s, then Earth’s -
that the chopped-off head of God 

is going to roll across the universe,
a gigantic football, all hair, flabby jowls
and long beard.

You stand, picture-book open and expect me
to believe in cartoons, in the religious sequence
of this will be our finest hour

in Botswana, New Zealand.
I pick at worms
turning over the soil, aerating the gaps between crops.

I break the clods with a shovel. Why do people
still knock on doors, flap about on false wings
and dance the apostolic fandango?

In Botswana, I live in a hut
made of particle board and when it rains
it stinks of chemicals – when it rains, gutters

wash houses down drains. The streets
are unusually empty. I find companionship
in the hairy man who jumps from his pit of clay,

who shouts and gesticulates at a thunderstorm
dumping its load. When he crouches in the dirt,
he draws me in.