blackmail press 33
Loveday Why
New Zealand

Tui Taonga 1-5 Penny Howard
I have performed and been published here and there; wander, sometimes with purpose, usually following the sun, but have settled for at least three years in Dunedin where I am doing a PhD.
I won the Derek Walcott prize, was shortlisted for one of the Bridport prizes and now live in a caravan up a hill by the sea, help my husband run his ecoforestry business, eat honey, play the piano and look at the sea.

Tell me again about his drowning,
how he held himself down on an underwater crag,
the entrance to a cave, gravely and sleek in his hand.

Only below could he speak fluently,
his mouth a shut clam, the lips its soft muscle,
and his eyes, warm pools, the dry frenzy of mountains cast off.

He was looking to free himself from the hold
and thought he’d walk back up the stairs of the ocean changed.
But only down here was he true, a whisper withheld,

death not profiting, for he slipped somewhere else,
his body, soul left, like a mirror picture, made and uncreased,
the paint disappearing down the fold.

Slow Rising

Hands on a column of salt in a cave,
the nubs of stalactites forming.
We kept to the caverns and found water springing in them.

Outside, in the realm of flat planes,
they visit a corpse and wash their feet in its juice.
They have torn down the lynched but can’t escape disorder.

Pull off the road, put your hand on the rock here,
feel the echo of salt and cold hum up your arm
like you’re partly the instrument.

We are rightly nomads and unbeholden.
Flame coloured birds fly in an upwards flash, then grip the trees.
We watch for that silence in the night’s gap.   


Vivid air of underwater,
as if you have known what it is to pass into nothing,
the lifting of gravity with the application of rocks,
accepted postures and niches dissolved.

Against the waving wind of underwater
you glide and, within it, skim, clear yourself of past being,
the winters you escaped, the lengths you took to shirk the Earth,

the miles you accumulated to toll under the sun,
like you were the note in the shadow of the bell’s tongue.