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Johanna Emeney
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Jo Emeney is an Auckland teacher and poet. She is currently working as a tutor on the L1 Creative Writing paper at Massey, where she is studying for her PhD, and co-tutoring workshops for talented young writers at the Michael King Writers' Centre with friend and colleague Ros Ali. Her poetry collection Apple & Tree was published by Cape Catley in 2011.

Some of the pages
have empty mountings
still with captions
under their bare grey squares:
far more mysterious
than those with photos
but less compelling
than the ones labelled ME

just in case anyone wonders
who hid behind a leafy tree,
swung, in a bathing suit,
from ropes attached to the sky,
or peeked out
behind steely-headed MOTHER,
who stands,
arms folded,
in front of a house
called INVICTA.

Man, Working

It is very easy to love you,
watching from this window
as you take a chainsaw
to the huge branch
that creaked and fell
onto the boundary fence
two days ago. You are so
tireless, methodical—
piece by piece, it will move,
you know.

Things are looking clearer, already:
the first four bars;
the strung post bounces up
to perpendicular,
and I know that by the time
you come back into the house,
there will be nothing left leaning
or straining to stand under pressure;
the neighbour will soon stop craning
meaningfully as he drives past,
because there’ll be nothing broken to look at,
just a neat pile of firewood
stacked and ready.

Honest second

The art of advice
is balancing
what you think
is the right thing
with what you think
is the right thing to say,
keeping in mind
the psychological state
of the person whom you are advising,
your own integrity and beliefs,
as well as the repercussions
of your suggestions in the immediate
and distant futures—a complex mix,
especially in light of the fact that friendship
should always be kind first,
and honest second.


Whatever you thought you wanted here
turned into strawberries.

You never seemed to perceive the seeds,
or that so much of them was pith;
the ratio of sweet fruit to gritty kernels
wasn’t mentioned.

No, and at their nascence,
all you saw was softness,
ready petal-edges browning
translucent at the bruises.

After ruinous rain, you’d say
All we can do is wait and see.

And what appeared to others
semi-blighted promise, was, to you,
just hardiness, pretty tarnish.

How did you know
that inflorescence under threat
would beget a stubborn green nub
of clone flesh and tenderness,

and that those hard, dark specks
could be imperceptible,
swallowed with the rest?

Heartache All Around - Johanna Emeney