blackmail press 34
Owen Bullock
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
In 2012, Owen Bullock published his second collection of haiku breakfast with epiphanies (Oceanbooks). He also edited Poetry NZ #45 and Building a time machine, the New Zealand Poetry Society’s annual anthology, and was one of the editors of Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Vol IV. He has previously published a collection of poetry, sometimes the sky isn’t big enough (Steele Roberts, 2010), another book of haiku, wild camomile (Post Pressed, Australia, 2009), and the novella A Cornish Story (Palores, UK, 2010).

recommendations, 3 a.m.
reading Marianne Moore


take a file into the sound of rushing water
ship a heartbeat to make it to the other side
call home to remember where you’re from
elucidate emotions to know yourself
control nothing, the universe breathes you
lie beside the paradox implicit in so much
taste addiction to find its source
bathe in the pool to wake

serialise your humour in appropriate lengths
don’t go on without an extra shirt
pluck the strings the way you want
the way they’ve never been plucked before
don’t let them tell you you have to choose
unless you want to and can choose again
don’t fight your own stupidity
settle for less and less and less

work for what pleases you
celebrate the day that comes
tell them to get off your expectations
ride the carpet into the dream of hunger
mistake the stranger for your family
return to the family and tell them you’re new
live on in seclusion where the echoes are yours
write for the child whose kindness inspired

drink inwardly of the breath without merit
cry for us, don’t stop crying
love grief because you’re human and vast
taste dust as well as cherries
find the flavour that has your name on it
compose instructions for your magic
light the night with wakeful peace
confound the day with changes

call out to the earth that you have seen
walk your strength through running tides
tell the baby about spacemen and fantasies
cool the centre of the earth with light footsteps
see beauty for what it is, without touch
embrace the ugliness of a want
keel over at the pleasure of a shared moment
know the person you met to be your reflection

lost in the glories of days without caesura
be certain of how little you know
persuade us you hear joy’s trumpet
travel to the continent where smiles gather
laugh with reason and unreason
picture the aching soul beside you in a bus
continue because there’s much of everything
know that it’s yours and again


take me home, take me to lament
promise me something and keep that promise
spare me all illusions but these

love me for who I am, not ambition
tell the world I did something and died well
spare me mere preference

tell the doubt-collectors I was born over-topping them
pour a glass from me and drink
spare me the gaze of envy

tell the women I loved how beautiful they are
engage me in a vision of the smile as it is
spare me the memory

coax me into a pen where energy
rises up like a ball of fire
spare me the witnesses

dust me over the landscape and taste the spiced
ingredient of the soil
spare me the test

engulf me in a rush of air so my body breathes
without thought or measure
spare me the knowledge of oxygen

hammer stroke
reading Jimmy Santiago Baca

I cart wood with tractor, yes
it takes me all day

I remember blacksmith showing me
how to move great weights with ropes, yes

levers and even block and tackle
I get log stuck on stump

and I think about if for a minute
what he would have done and I get

long metal bar from trailor, lift log
reach out with other hand, put branches

underneath till it is high as stump
then it comes down easily

it was a long time ago, I was
always allowed to go help

the blacksmith if he called
even if I had been naughty, yes