blackmail press 29
Paola Bilbrough
New Zealand
First featured bmp issue 1 Feb 2001
In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner
In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner

Three am and a skin of silence descends
Day time creases gone, the lucky are ironed out.

The painters body porous: a terracotta vessel
that won't hold sleep, allowing the world to stream in.

Behind his lids a film reeling out; an array of places
unseen, chosen for their resonance and colour:

Santa Fe, Alice, The Bay of Biscay. The woman
beside him sleeps, submerged in deep umber.

Hair coiled on the pillow dense as an expensive
paint brush. Wet earth on fingers, her concentration

as she takes roots from soil, sifts each granule.
A Starling lifts it's throat attentive to each movement.

Now she is entering a blue room; he sees it wash
across her face. The carpet warm russet

moving through her limbs, whisky-like.
He wants to pull her from sleep, lick the place

where lashes meet cheek. He is moored
in wakefulness, bed a raft on the estuary of floor.

Her sole meets his calf. Heat travels through him;
dye in water. Slowly, consciousness subsides.

They enter a painting, flushed and sleek with a colour
never seen. A colour they sweat and breathe in sleep.


Throat locked against joy she wore
hot afternoons like heavy, unwelcome garmets.

Severing roses from strangers bushes
passing through endless corridors of streets.

It seemed the men on corners were rolling
cigarettes with sheaves of human skin.

The sky murky; a badly executed water colour
she was not at liberty to fold away.

We were rarely alone; there was the blond
boy in the fedora and old mens suits.

His instruments lined the hall: cello
leaning against guitar, french horn by itself.

What he was to her I could not tell.
She in white linen, light as a gourd, he in black wool.

In the near dark of the rented house her bones
shone faintly blue, ribs a fish skeleton, flesh picked out.

Nights when the rest of the city lay bare,
she was ironed flat beneath two feather quilts.

sunken cheeks, hair oiled, twisted off her face.
I could not halt her bodies willing erosion

nor pull myself from the mould of sulky, anxious child.
Late at night I would step from my lovers bed,

cross the motorway, arrive at my mothers house.
She lying under the wings of a wooden bird with iron feet.

There were flowers dropping petals, furred quinces.
Lemons surrounded by leaves over the mantle-piece.

Face pressed against the back of her neck,
awaiting sleep I knew that she would go.

The walls were full of widening cracks
and I heard the soft movement of earth falling.


Linnet was named for a song bird from a country
of rolling mists and downs. 'Like Lynette,' she'd say,
teenage-wistful, imagining flesh-tone stockings,
plucked eye brows, a job in an office tower.

Now, she has unshaven legs and pits.
Hair on her belly so thick it could be stroked into shapes.
A woven tray of nori maki on her head,
sweat darkening her neroli-scented skin.

Chickens run through her house,
and everywhere are enamel pots of Formosan tea,
spouts and handles filling rooms
along with fresh-dug spuds and mud-cakd shoes.

The garden is a wilderness: bean trellis
flowering orange - big enough to house a child.
Broken terracotta, silverbeet sapling-tall.
Everything gone feral or in the urban tongue fez

-a word that fizzes, sherbet to the ears,
conjuring a red felt hat, worn by a boy
with a burnished forehead. Fez is woman in beanies
John- the- baptist- blokes and oil-gleamed hair.

Fez is a sitar-pop outdoors, peeling formica tables,
emotional mire. It's the city's ragged breath on the doorstep
and Linnet lying on a church pew, body as eloquent
as harmonica cords and dark earth crumbled in the palm.


You have brought me a cage, grey-blue
and slightly grimy. An isolated bulb dead centre.

In it's previous life it might have held a Sunday roast,
beaded with fat, or butter on a chipped saucer.

I imagine you attaching the light, your hands
small, thickly padded, your face beatific.

I move the cage from room to room, opening
and closing the door, a child with a dolls house.

I switch the safe on, fill the room with lace shadows.
Odd and piquant, it could host a miniture play.

I should like to sit with you on its rustyfloor,
a gramaphone reaching out like a giant lily

the voices of performers echoing around us.
It would be part comedy, part circus

and you'd place your hand on my diaphragm,
waiting for laughter to emerge.


He was always taking his shoes off.
Once to display his arches, his pearly nails,
uncalloused soles. In shoes his feet felt
compressed; he could not flex his toes
or feel the ball of his foot against the earth.

His words were often imprecise,
I was attentive to the sound of his feet:
their tread deep-napped, patterned to the touch.
There was no empty space in his body,
breath unfurled, fully resident.

One afternoon, a fault-line running
from throat to breast, I took a pair of boots
to be mended and we met. I was thinking
of his indescision, nape plush beneath
a velour shirt, his skins oil on my fingers.

'I can't bear evasion' I said. He reached out
an arm, took one foot from the ground,
lightly, as if without shoes. The somnolent lean
of his whole frame towards me like the separation
of an egg; the yolk's silken pause before it drops.


He unstraps the drum from his back as one might a new born.
In his hand a silver stem, wires growing at one end.
I see it as a ritualistic piece, but he says it's just a brush.

We hold our bodies as though they are fine, heat-filled china.
He smooths my wrist with a thumb, we do not speak.
I concentrate on the word brush in all its guises.

Pulled through knotted hair, bristles like porcupine quills
- black with pale tips. Sable or other, a clump of fibres
moistened in the mouth, a ticklish point to paint with.

Dry plants swathing a hillside- the rustle of tulle
when fire rushes through. To come close to danger,
the law or a person. Hairs on your arms touching as you pass.

Or sweeping shards of glass; motion of wrist and bristles
a whispering sound, soothing the breakage. He begins to play as I leave.
A bouquetof wire brushed across the djembe's taut yellow skin.