Rachael Lowe
New Zealand

Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016
Rachael lives in Wellington. She has lived in South East Asia and Australia working in international aid. She grew up in Auckland. Rachael's work will be published in a forthcoming edition of Takahe magazine.
Aleppo’s wounded

I am lost in the night where mad dogs lie in wait.
Blood-stained cracks appear on my body,
valleys between dead mountains, my home, my shame.
Warm embers mark the place, the fury, night’s wound.

Layers of black blood form a thick pelt to armour me.
Don’t you know that I am a living thing that hurts?

And like the moon, coming into my fullest, is my reign of madness.
Night’s forests where childhood memories gather round
each silver-tipped tree, a sword, an injury.
Behind me is not what you imagine.

Full bites sunken in and other half bit attempts—
nothing but bits of this limb and that limb.
My mind, delicate and desperate,
thrust into dusty corners, humanity’s shadows.
Anything in this hell-dark that takes form
is a trick, something old, some knife, his,
to dig in and bury again.
I’ve no unblemished skin.

In curves, the howling streets, to confuse your advance.
When you take me—my heart,
my treasure box—is my secret,
and I will find my way back.
Know that you obligate me a prayer
that my dress stays on tidy
and no babe is born between these legs.

Packs of dogs howl with this night-warrior in me—
but ever hovering over a limpid grave, listening,
bones ceasing their rattle and trombone.

The morning opens with wakefulness,
the night closed in. Forgetting the fervent in the deep-dark,
I am absolved again and again, with each opening
into a milky day.


Sacrifice parts of you,
that her worn face is not embalmed in resinous tears.
Take her darkened memories into luminous valleys—
that they may thrive in another’s life.

A new skin bewitches her body—
blood fluid in wide rivers, veins mapping love’s tides.
Eyes set back, raging furnaces, an amethyst fire.
She will now officiate before the Gods:
a scepter,
an enduring arabesque,
a mosaic heart,
and milky filigree crowning her hair.

Pray that he will never know the scent of her collarbone,
her night-balm of midnight flowers, a crisp moon in Spring.


Sticks form into fingers and leaves into perfect nails
as cloudy milk flows into them, sticky, throbbing, giving life.
Flaming torments emerge from lips, his, filling his drowning mind,
aloft, just alive, scraping flesh over war’s prolific gun shots.

On the tip of her little finger, all the colours catching fire-lights—
bullets into rubies, his scars into emeralds.

Offer your face to the sharp odour falling from the sky
to hail something different to death. Pray we know what that is.

Beyond the sky-ripped boundary, where dying is grace, is holy,
willow-tears fall on his freshly made skin.
Light him up in all the colours that we are blinded by his form.
His white dawn will be our sanctuary—
our only peace.

She remembers from outside the story

When she is absent, all things are lost:
her dagger mind, sharp memories,
and the slippery tenses of vanished words.

But she hears murderous intent.
A moss-damp protuberance,
the mess of blood and limbs touching intimately,
so loudly,

so loudly that her screams can’t be heard.

Big Mister cry baby boy


Hey Mister, what you think your mama say now? You think you gonna be a big man cos you got that thing in my face? You ain’t big. You ain’t a man. You a boy with a gun. A little gun for a little sweet boy. I gonna sing you a lullaby, cry boy, cry baby little sweet boy no-one home.

You gonna cry? You think you make me cry? You got ugly tears on your ugly face. Where’s your mama? What she gonna say now? You think you kill me with your big fat gun? You think your mama gonna like it much? Her cry baby little sweet boy killing a angry girl and her mama right here. What we done to you, Mister? Make you big you got a ugly gun in my face now? My mama done nothing to you cry boy.

That’s it? You gonna say nothing to me? You got nothing to say. You know nothing. You know killing. You know killing girls and their mamas that ain’t done nothing to you. What you gonna say to me?

Go home now. Your mama is waiting for you. She gonna sing you a lullaby, cry, cry baby little sweet boy go home now. Your mama will clean your face up, make you hot food, cut your hair all nice. Your mama will love you. You think you big? Go home to your mama. Go now. Go home.


you got that thing in my face? you ain’t big

cry baby little sweet boy no-one home

angry girl and her mama right here

you got a ugly gun in my face

mamas that ain’t done nothing to you

cry baby little sweet boy go home now

make you hot food, cut your hair all nice