blackmail press 34
Renee Liang
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Renee Liang is a poet, playwright, paediatrician and fiction writer. She is involved in organising community arts events such as artistic blind-dating initiative Metonymy and New Kiwi Women Write, a writing workshop for migrant women supported by Auckland Council. She is a regular contributor to The Big Idea, a website linking NZ's arts community. In her own writing, Renee has been published in the New Zealand Listener, JAAM, Blackmail Press, Tongue in your Ear, Sidestream and Magazine. She has written, produced and toured three plays: Lantern(2009), The Bone Feeder (2009/2011)and The First Asian AB (2011). Renee is also part of the core group of researchers for landmark longitudinal study Growing Up In NZ, which seeks to benefit all NZ children by finding out what impacts on their development. For her activities in arts, medicine and science, Renee was named a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader in 2010.

you're so welcome stranger
welcome to clean green NZ our home

you're welcome stranger
welcome to clean green NZ our home

you're welcome stranger
to clean green NZ our home

you're welcome stranger
to clean NZ our home

you're welcome stranger
to clean our home

you're welcome
to clean our home

to clean our home

to clean home

to clean

to clean


K Rd Song

for Nikki

last night I came to you
with the salt of my lover still on my skin

and we walked together
on the undulating curve of asphalt

tossed words
that caught under clouds

talked of spiders
and the webs they weave

talked of skins
and how they peel, or don’t peel

the crazy bend of mountain roads
and how everyone in Auckland
drives as if they’re on speed.

And I smelt the smell of gunpowder
on your skin

saw your eyes still flushed
with the memory of wartime

and your arms still heavy
with the weight of the injured.

I wanted to hold you then.

I wanted to tell you the story of Papa
of how she lies lost in the sea

of how Rangi still cries for her
and how she gives of her flesh willingly

to build cities, dumps, feed cows
and give the Tourism Board

something to boast about.

I wanted to say all this
but I think you already know:

deep inside, underneath the skin
of this country

it’s dark
but warm

we like the sound of our own hearts.

on a teapot elephant

one day
our teacher with flame-red hair brought in
a bag of clay
lush smooth squidginess
interrrupted by chips of rock
"for texture" she said
"for fibre" I thought, noting the comparison
between her worn clever hands squeezing out
long sausages of clay to make pots
and my discussions with
weary parents of constipated children
in the paediatric ward

but I did what she said
and took a handful of the stuff
squeezing it until an elephant's trunk snorted
between my fingers, a round bowl
of an abdomen, four scored blobs for feet
a child's drawing in hospital

and for the piece de resistance
I pinched out a teapot top,
two elephant's ears flowing in the long night
of my imagination, the trunk rising
in a vague sort of floppy post modernist avant garde salute

and after I had glazed it
painted it
and fired it
once to the temperature of an abandoned salt flat in a hot desert in Africa
and second to the temperature of a child struggling to draw breath overnight
and lastly to the contented sigh of a tired doctor coming home
to the quiet motel room and a single bed
I found the only tea
it could ever hold
was imaginary.

for Reshabh

it is
a flower slowly unfurling inside you
tendrils spread
along the line of your belly
creeping up beside the ribcage
to tickle your eye.

an inside thought.
a whisper.

long ago as a girl
you had learned the secret
and now at last
it is your turn.

you hold the flower
whisper to it day by day
as it turns and sighs inside you

petals unfold
like tiny limbs
fed on nothing
but darkness
and love.

you trace words on your tongue
like blood, hold, heart
taste the salt taste of motherhood
for the first time,
know it will not be
the last.