blackmail press 26
Mary Cresswell
New Zealand

from: Angipanis of the Abanimal People - Andy Leleisi'auo
Mary Cresswell is a Wellington poet who lives on the Kapiti Coast. Her book of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, was published by Steele Roberts in 2009.


No time to laugh, bare-headed in the rain
open-mouthed, drinking in the rain.

Born base, we act base. No one’s blamed,
no one weeps or wails within the acid rain.

I am wakened nightly, daily, by streams
of words aiming to explain the rain.

When children plant radishes and beans
in eggshells, they know it’s just a game.

Men skip crevasses. They leap the deep ravines
nimble feet on once-was-there terrain.

We pray we plan we plant one last hope for green
in lethal wetlands beneath the endless rain.

Jupiter Pluvius isn’t what he was. We’re stuck
with Mercury, only, to light us through the rain.


If I clap three times, it won’t rain till lunchtime
if I face north-northwest the bus will be on time
if the seventh wave is the best one to surf on
if I have ten syllables in a line...

If I hold my breath five seconds, you won’t hurt me
if dinner’s meat and two veg, you’ll be glad
if the children you don’t talk to just stay quiet
if I need you enough to keep from going mad

If these shoes are made for walking I won’t wear them
except on hills you’re set to let me climb
so you can get there first and throw rocks at me—
if you’ll let me, let me try just one more time

If I hold my breath forever will you miss me?
What is this awful place called Me and You?
When the bedroom door shuts, will you kiss me?
If I don’t smile back, will you smack me til I do?


A pine goes down in the top block—
radiata—hear her crash!
Big Steve in his ratty vest
rousts out the hardhats
bulldozers, bobcats
chainsaws and forklifts
“Phwoar! get a load of that!”

Young pines go down in handfuls
their dark skins scrape
they bleed wet sap
they slap against each other
at breast height, then lie still

Shouting, roaring machines
come again and again
wrestling the logs one by one
in the rough bump and grind
that happens when trees get
laid bare in the forest

Big Steve waves the clipboard—
cups of tea are ready and
waiting. “There’s plenty more
where that came from,”
he says. Everyone
laughs and cheers.
That’s good, that’s real good.


I turn too quick and there you are,
a catalog of sizes, shapes and colours,
or custom-tailored, always there

When you are 2 a.m., you prop the door ajar,
let the three-legged cat in
and jump-start the dawn chorus

I check you out in the tide table,
watch you hustle waves onto the sand,
push yawning workers onto the road

When you’re just a minute,
you flick lights off and
on, hibernate laptops
and wake up the bears

You take your coffee
in styrofoam and sunshine
or barefoot and smudgy
in the night kitchen

You curve like a cutlass moon
reflected in frozen puddles
You  dead-reckon the night
cold and intent, ignoring

the three-legged cat who
circles your ankles
crying for food