S  e  c  r  e  t  s    blackmail press 24
Sue Wootton
New Zealand

Sue Wootton has published two collections of poetry: Hourglass (2005) and Magnetic South (2008). She was the 2008 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in Dunedin.
Solstice, Port Chalmers
For Dianne

The sky is milky, a soft cheek proffered
for kissing by an aunt who leans in close,

whose skin shimmers on the water-glass. Pleats
unfurl from the bow of a boat, disintegrate

and sink. Plank by plank the boat, its mirror image,
glints and falls apart. The frame falls, the silver backing

vanishes. Black gash. Void. No walls, no floors,
nor any clock. No road out. I glimpse

the turning nape of horror. I see you, silhouette
of winter, completely sapped. Crystalline-blue

capillary frost. Reed clavicles. No flesh
on your bones, and none to come.


Only yesterday you spoke of snow clouds
massed above the Home Hills, how at last

their white weight broke and tumbled to the slopes
while from the valley you watched, entranced.

All night by the brazier, tucked under a blanket
and your chair tipped back, refusing, utterly,

to sleep.  Aglow, you said. 
All, all aglow. Matariki: harbinger

of full harvests.  (To reach
the coldest point, the furthest distance

from the sun; to feel the centrifugal grip
that held through all your winters

go slack; to know your solstice
is too deep, and will not ease.)


A bellbird flutes from a bare tree.
The rip in the landscape restores itself.

The boat has made steady progress
towards the Heads –  old practical tub,

fisherman’s beauty.  The shags line up:
tough, poised, perfectly beaked.


Palm to palm, Madam, we are where we began – Wallace Stevens, A High-toned old Christian Woman

The heart line in your palm is canyons deep. I would
dip my tongue in it, not so much a lapping as a long
lick that enters your hand, delicious ice-hot blast
in the electric gap between your metacarpals, buzz-
whisper against the bones, a lingering why? and its 
smouldering no-reply why not? Not simple need
(not simple) just complicated must; and not sweet
but like kissing with a mint in the mouth,
breathing into your skin a little shivering fire,
verboten flicker of desire.

                    And yet, and yet, 
this carving in your hand’s flesh is your loyalty tattoo,
and see, on my own palm a similar quotidian etch.
Cliff to cliff, and palm to palm,
what could we ever be, my lovely vertiginous drop,
but circus figures tomfooling above a safety net?

Variations on a theme by Kenneth Koch

I have bird seed in my head and a guinea pig in my stomach
and my genitals are blooming and possum-full of audacity even purring
With cat-like agility and I am after you but I am before you
And I have a song in my heart
And my song is an ostrich
I have catachreses in my ear lobes
I have decongestant in my nostrils I have spring in my step
I have Botox every Tuesday I am free of frowns
I have a credit card and air points I have lots of whiteware
I have stainless steel in my kitchen
But I lack frowns I lack stains
Though I do not lack extreme delicacy of disapproval
This is the matter with me
And the man in my hands wants to use the hammer of my mother and father
And the woman in my shoes is complaining about the hole in my sole
And I think I have three soles in need of repair
One in my gumboots and one in my Reeboks and one in my stilettos
Not stilettos but my sole self but octagonal but upright but falling over
Has Paul Holmes set out to be a great interviewer?
Obviously not  A great entertainer? A great Nothing?
Well I will leave that up to you
I have a blackbird in my silver birch
I have a budgie in my cage
I have a waxeye on my bird feeder and I think I have a bellbird in my glottis
And every time I open my Glottis an erratum falls to the floor
It’s a Landfall but who is it that I wish to astonish?
The words rarely string together take a biscuit it’s straight out of the oven
The active ingredient in my baking is a touch of cream of tartar
I am Neil Finn I am Greg Johnson I am Dave Dobbyn
But how can this male strum be appealing? Do you like Manhire? My god
Most people want a man for keeps!  So here I am
I have a takahe in my rejections I have a goshawk in my hair
Whatever is it? 
An explanation? or maybe an infestation? an imitation?
I have a rat in my iamb
And I have a secret baby in my wild dreams who has led all these animals to you.