blackmail press 34
Sandi Sartorelli
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Was born in the Hutt Valley and has lived there ever since. She is a graduate of the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme. Recently her work has appeared in 4th Floor, Penduline Press, Renée’s Wednesday Busk and Shenandoah.  

Year nine, Heretaunga College

Once it rained.  Lunchtime
was moved inside to the history
room and marmite sandwiches.

A continent drawn down over
the whiteboard.  What a useless map.
They’ve left out New Zealand.

A fair mistake.  I’d been told
I was a European, so naturally ‒
but all the time, the wrong map.

If silence is golden

what is black, white and red all over?  Office talk of the weekend, missing stationery and Coronation Street.  Amid layers of conversation, a voice calls my name.  When I answer my colleagues look at me.  I have a cold I say. Mavis plays her part, offers her Throaties. Their talk returns to Coro.

just now, stolen
thoughts leave her
angry, empty

I am haunted by voices that will not speak, though several times I heard song in the white noise of trains and traffic.  Twenty thousand monastic soccer voices sang in unison, words far too gargantuan for a human ear to decipher.  Too glorious.  More down to earth was the little voice that would rouse itself to speak as if muffled by a hand.  Arrogant to expect English, nē?  Me kōrero paki koe i te reo Māori.

rain leaves the sky
without a bow

After a while, I get out of the car, go into Pak ‘n’ Save. In the stillness, the supermarket goddess.   Her sparkling fizz of plenty bursts me acute with love for all the people, all the baked beans, the milk, the disinfectant, the loaded trollies. I do not hear the voices of pens, even as I write. Their voice comes through in the text – an echo of laughter or sexual innuendo – usually both.  Ratbags should hold a workshop on the joys of cursing.

under water
she throws the dice,
– a two

At my own risk I enter the Catholic church. In a moderate to severe earthquake it would not be safe.  An excellent incentive for prayer, but I do not hear your reply. I do not hear your terrible rock against rock beneath the earth, Rūaumoko. I do not see your mouth gape open in the floor, nor feel your Parksonian hand.  Will you not speak?  I am empty, ready to be your receiver.

wait –
the quiet

I wake to four young gargoyles who sing in quavering four-part harmony, do you hear me?  And the phone rings, a phone that does not exist. My CD player, turned off at the wall, makes a crackle sound.  Cars outside on the road, a truck, more rolling cars.  Within this, still nothing.

I am satisfied with this, my gift.  I am able. Absence within silence ‒ on occasion, words within sound.  Each of these is golden.

in the shaken rubble
a shout – she is
alive and dancing

Sword of Nine Ways
(after a demonstration of an Aikido kata)

1.   You are a valued       The camera is pointed at Kevin.  He’s alone on the mat,
employee.                his hands ready with the bokken: bring it on.
        Sensei speaks, Kevin bows, begins.
2.   The economy is
depressed.      I envision the choreography.  From the North
       a swordsman.  Kevin strikes the man’s head, then thrusts
3.   Our budget has been         into his belly. Repeats his defence in the South, East,
       West.  A man strikes from one side.  Kevin sinks a sword
4.  The payroll must      in his skull and the man falls ‒ others drop in the North-East,
reduce.            South-West, South-East.  As they rise again, Kevin

5.  The organisation      blends with their attack.  Sweeps his bokken in a circle
will be restructured.     of throats until bodies lie bloody on the dojo floor,
       the smartest have long since run for the hills.
6.  You must reapply for
your position.        Later I ask, what do you imagine as you perform?
                           Are there nine attackers, eight, or four? He smiles,
7.  Staff motivation is   this is a ki kata.  No-one else is on the floor, my focus
not affected.
      is on correct technique. Yes, just one man on the mat
8.  There has been no    but it’s not what I expected him to say.  With no intention
disruption to business  to harm, no imagined opponent, why does he bother?
as usual.
      I make each tsuki the best thrust I have ever done.  Every
9. You are a valued        shomen the most excellent cut. Each breath, each stance,
employee.               it is against myself.