Catherine Fitchett is a Christchurch poet with a day job in accounts. She has been previously published in "Takahe", the Press (Christchurch) and in the anthology "Big Sky".
  S  e  c  r  e  t  s    blackmail press 24
Catherine Fitchett
New Zealand


The city is a spreadsheet
laid on the plains block upon block.
There are some in their airless offices
who affect nothing.
Don’t count on it.

In the hidden mathematics of the city
there are unexpected connections.
You might add a small number
at a crucial junction
and buses run late all over town.
Hum a tune and you might see
a single bird fly over,
or dancing break out in the streets.

And watch that girl with the blue hair,
when she enters the equation,
how it changes everything.

North American Periodic Cicada

It will happen like this:
after the struggle, he will leave in haste,
return with a spade and dig
a shallow grave. The dead one
will not be missed for a week
until the neighbour becomes anxious
about the overflowing mailbox,
The assailant is long gone.

Or, it will happen like this:
he will dig a shallow grave.
Too shallow. A boy will walk with his dog
through these woods. The dog will sniff
the freshly dug earth, paw at it,
uncover what has been done.
The assailant, blood on his shirt,
will be stopped at a police roadblock
crossing into the next state.

No, this is what will happen.
On a day in six thousand
there is a struggle in the woods.
Later, on that night in six thousand,
a horde of insects crawl from the ground,
make their way around the corpse, through
the soft earth, up the trunks of trees. They split
their shells, emerge soft bodied.
Billions of creatures harden on branches
until by daytime they take to the air.
Before the boy comes by with his curious dog,
empty shells will rain honey-coloured,
covering the ground for miles.
The woods crunch underfoot. The boy
will not venture far in, the dog
will not spot the soft earth.
There will be no manhunt until
the assailant is several states away,
living a new life. The secret is his alone
The cicadas, deep underground
for another seventeen years do not know
what they have hidden.

What the Fence Knows

You can hold a hillside together
with number eight wire. The fence knows
how to Strainrite.
It is the guardian of lost things,
hidden in its long grass skirts –
a ball of string, a pocket knife,
the lens cap for a camera,
a woman’s lost confidence.
On the other side of the fence,
she is planting lettuces in the dark.
The moon comes out from behind a cloud
and shines on the scarecrow with the torn face.