blackmail press 37
Elizabeth Smither
New Zealand

Mere & Child - Penny Howard
Elizabeth Smither poet, novelist and short story writer, was born in New Plymouth. From 1975 onwards, she has published eighteen collections of poems.

Wedding car

For your wedding we hired a 1926 Nash
in deep forest green, straight sides
like corsets pressed in and then some more

(the curved cars on the road looked askance
as if Rasputin had appeared among them
severe and poisonous and prim).

A white ribbon ran from the chauffeur’s window
to the flying naked lady. The wheel spokes gleamed
and measured each revolution like time

and though, today, someone else will ride in it
you are both still there on the back seat
with its sense of discipline, its stuffing

of horsehair not foam, your bouquet reflecting
the subdued light from the narrow back window
as if it has thrown and caught itself.

The wedding party of animals

The old cat with the tumour on his brow
will wear a waistcoat and a bow-tie.
The tumour, removed, re-grows and blends
into the tigerish stripes of fur.

The farm dogs too, who at another wedding barked
furiously, from a barn, as rings were exchanged
will hopefully sit near the cat, adorned
in neck ruffs, a dickey, and a tie.

Impossible to tell the bride it may not be
perfect or even possible on the day.
The tumour, black and shiny, is no excuse
not to chase. A tangled tie may droop

underneath a paw. The animals’ role
may be mayhem but entertain
the guests with champagne in their hands
showing animals’ love is unashamed.

Night horse

In the field by the driveway
as I turn the car a horse
is stepping in the moonlight.

Its canvas coat shines, incandescent.
Around its eyes a mask
a Siennese horse might wear.

No banners stir the air, but mystery
in the way it is stepping
as if no human should see

the night horse going about its business.
The soft grass bowing to the silent hooves
the head alert, tending where

the moonlight glows and communes
in descending sweeps that fall
through the air like ribbons

as the horse moves in a trance
so compelling, so other-worldly
it doesn’t see the car lights.

Alice and the carrots

We three advance across the uneven field
to where Alice, the horse, with one white sock
and forehead blaze comes forward to take three carrots.

Two are experienced carrot-givers. I stand awed
by a mouth so removed from the grinding jaw
and that my carrot must be inserted.

A fool, Alice thinks. In need of training. Yet
my carrot is the fattest, biggest. And I turn back
and look at her, longest.