blackmail press 34
Rachel Rees
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
After much adventure, Rachel Rees is currently nestled in Papatowai on
the Catlins coast. Originally from Nelson, her poetry has featured on
Lumiere Reader, in The Kiwi Diary, and the anthology Work and Space.

The cicadas

And there, on the pavement, was the cicada.
No clamorous song, the cicada was silent.

I remember mountains of cicadas that morning:
many were shells, splintered and waxed as gardeners’ fingernails;
some were crushed into a gunk,
their severed wings flapped in Wellington's habitual breeze.

I remember the strangeness of summer that year:
the southerlies and the bullet rain,
more southerlies, and a fumy heat.

I remember thinking: those cicadas are like soldiers.
They had flown into battle
sending out coded messages from their tymbals.
Then, stealthy on the sides of telegraph poles,
they fell from intoxicating weather to the pavement below,
each severed wing a broken limb.  

That evening, in wonderment,
I watched as my cat brought in a cicada.
It was alive with clicking!
It was singing –

I remember instant fear for the cicada's powerful muscle
as she bit into its abdomen with her teeth.
Its final muffled message
like Dream of a Witches Sabbath:
the theme song from a psychological thriller
played out before me.

Perhaps some kind of peace was restored
and her action simple – downright biological.
It was only a cicada, after all….
But for me, it was not simple.

I remember a wet and windless autumn
and with it a flawless pavement.
I still can’t stomach the thought of it.

Survival response

The road divvied up farmland and suburb.
Its length was a hop, skip and
from Saxton to Quarantine. 
A thin, barbed-wire fence on one side
was secured on rough-sawn,
lichen-crusted timber posts,
whacked in, uneven along the boundary.
The road developed at great speed.
First to go were the lambs and horses, and then
the barns and the hay and the green.
In their place plumb fences
and prefab pavements and topiary trees
protected by green wrought iron
and tricolour pansies. 

A young girl wrote a story about baa-lambs on neigh-land
and sleeping under stars on the steel coil trampoline.

At the spoon end
of a quiet
hilltop cul-de-sac,
a woman noticed a lamb grazing
on the neighbour's lawn.
She walked down the concrete path
in her dressing gown, slippers on.
They scuffed an echo
as the sun rose over an orange and pink sea.
The lamb had strayed from
the subdivided lifestyle block of pale grass,
to the residential side of the harakeke and gorse.
She wanted to hold the lamb; wanted to feel its body,
stroke its ears, and smell the tufts of wool.

She heard its hooves scratch the pavement
as it scrambled away, all out of rhythm. 
She heard it call.

Before difference

I want to remember you
and me as children. Before
we were bodies in the moonlight.

I imagine the playground at school:

There’s me – I’m at one end
making daisy chains for friends
and you’re on the swing
over there                             
with your legs kicked high              

And hey! 
There’s you at show and tell –

You’re in a pressed and buttoned shirt
playing something beautiful
on a beaten-up piano

a couple of keys are out of tune

and there’s me again –

I’m singing all the words
under my breath.