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Photography: Sarah Reed
Martha Morseth

Martha Morseth was born in the US and came permanently to New Zealand in 1972. Her feature articles, essays and poems have been published in the NZ Listener, North and South, Landfall, Sport and other literary magazines. She has had three books published: a collection of poetry, "Staying Inside the Lines"; "Yeah!---short stories for teenagers"; and "Let¹s Hear It for the Winner", one act plays for high schools. She has recently completed a musical drama about New Zealand's first woman doctor. Martha is currently working on a second collection of poetry.

the cafe

I am the one who gets there first,
the one who always waits.
I avoid cracks but can do nothing
about the shadows.

You meet me at the Percolator
for coffee and something else.
I notice that their pot plants
need watering.  I say ‘yes’
to another coffee when you ask
if I have had enough of life alone.
I lust for cream, I admit, but
my slim conscience prevents such
luxuries and my thin soul warns
me against your extravagances.

I am able to forget the nightmares
but the dreams recur----double rooms,
double floor plans, duplications
of living spaces.

Should I live with you?  We are
unalike and soon would hate.  But that
is a solid relationship, you say.
Co-dependency can be forever.

The crocuses are pushing through
the ground, too early.  Don’t force it,
I tell them.  Take a lesson from me,
I never know when to leave a party,
I always arrive too soon.  The hostess
isn’t ready and her partner is still
in the shower.  She glowers but lets
me in.  I see that her plants want
watering.  Wealth can make you

What was it you said with your fingers
as you handed me the coffee?  I seem
to be slipping through the places
between the newly polyurethaned
floorboards.  They reflect the tables
nicely and the customers’ teeth as
they laugh.

The night is cold, the windows are
steamed.  The cafe is warm, the cream
is sweet.  I see your teeth.

sonnet for table seven

Impeccable as the white,
starched cloth, we sit at a table
too wide to talk across.  
You shout out pleasantries in slices,
take refuge in the wine,
watch my face
though candle light.
The evening slips past caution, 
your voice hunches closer,
your hands overcome my reach. 
You sip my secrets
with the imported coffee.

What else did I expect,
at a table so small?

flat white

Others, not like us, surround us.
They dress in opshop clothes,
army coats, combat jackets,
camouflage trousers, matted
jerseys, strips of twisted cloth
banding their heads, binding
strands of greasy hair and dreds.
Their ease uneases us. We chatter
like peahens, picking at our carrot
cakes. We are well-groomed,
people with purpose. We have
paid too much for our clothes.

Macbeth’s wife gives a posthumous press conference

It‘s a woman’s right to be aggressive.
Especially in these times
one needs to be proactive,

focus on long-term objectives.
Reliance on advisers is not wise,
they can’t be trusted

nor can crystals, stones and potions.
Speculative predictions are less than certain
being couched in language so equivocal.

I’ve always thought strategic planning
was the way to go.
It would have worked

if he hadn’t forced the issues,
lost his confidence,
trusted false consultants,

relied on apparitions.
In the end there was no other way,
our backs were to the wall,

all assets lost.
I had to fake insanity
and hope there were no hit men in the castle

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