blackmail press 21
Siobhan Harvey
New Zealand

crossed cultures - special issue

Surrounded by suitcases,
boarding-cards, customs declarations,
passports, check-in desks
and a symphony melded from
Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Indonesian,
Thai, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin,
Jean Batten Airport tempers
my heartbeat and breathing.

The lift between
the concourse and level one,
I’d settle in if I could.
There, like Lazarus,
I’d sleep out my time.

Instead, I farewell the terminal,
drive to a house close-by
overlooking unsettled waters.
Blue and alarmed,
the house gets angry
if I forget its code;
it feels abandoned
if I don’t care for it;
it grows introverted
if I fail to speak to it
in our native tongue.

And so, each night,
it lies awake with me,
listening to the cries made
by aeroplanes passing overhead
as they leave us behind.

My sister writes poetry

Only when I am absent,
the ghosted reflection
of home movies and photograph skin
does my sister seek her muse.

Her words fill the earth,
the seasons, climates, bones
I have said farewell to.

And as I embrace being
an epitaph of my own country,
a strange and distant voice
at the end of our telephone line,
she grows intimate,
adjectives, nouns and verbs her new lifeblood.

And as I embrace living
my life over again,
images, similes, metaphors,
landscapes darker and emptier than the moon,
free verse, rhymes, odes,
villanelles, epics and elegies
become my sister’s ongoing comfort.

And when she wants to summon my return,
she writes out the religion of our past.

And when she wishes to forget me,
she writes of the birth of her new-born.

And then, in ugly joy,
in rage and remorse and guilt,
she rips her reddened words
into a thousand tatters,
petals each that scatter the air,
their delicacy and perfume
too rare for a faraway eye such as mine.

Naturalising Van Gogh                                                               

He arrives airborne
one l’etoilee nuit,
as though released
from a Chagall dreamscape.

He starves
for his oils and Art,
surviving on 100% NZ air.

He settles the All Blacks
upon vivid terra firma,
McCaw, Howlett, So’oialo
turned into men at work,

He finds his Arles
in Kamo’s summer twilight,
in the moon-glow above
the Desert Road, Aranui, Te Anau.

And then, he births the stars,
fixing them to a dead sky
so they might remind him
of some extinct point,
whispering over and again
of how the land and sky
comes together in his work;
of how, reborn between the two,
he might at last belong.

Recently, Siobhan’s  poetry has been published in international magazines and anthologies such as Booknotes – the New Zealand Book Council Magazine (NZ), The Christchurch Press (NZ), Deep South (NZ), Landfall (NZ), Meanjin (Aus), Poetry New Zealand (featured poet, issues 33), Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Snorkel (Aus), Takahe (NZ), Taste: an anthology of poetry about food (UK) and Wet Ink (Aus). Her poetry has been performed on New Zealand National Radio, 2006 Wellington Winter Readings and 2007 Storylines Festival, Auckland. She also works as a freelance literary journalist for, amongst others, The New Zealand Listener, The Dominion Post and New Zealand Books.
Featured Artist Fiona Holding