blackmail press 18
Mary Cresswell
New Zealand

Mary Cresswell grew up in Los Angeles but has spent most of her life in Wellington. She lives at the beach now. Her day job is as science editor/proofreader. She is co-author of Millionaire's Shortbread (University of Otago Press) and has published in journals in Canada, the US, Australia and the UK, as well as in NZ.

You popped up
from the back seat
I had thought
you were asleep, or
I’d got lucky
lost you somewhere
You breathe
heavy in my ear
turn left, now
we’re here
Skeletons in baggy pants
giggle and shuffle
mad dogs snap
at the hubcaps
All night I drive
north always north
Behind me
you chuckle and
in your sleep.

(for Miriam)

Flying again
you and me
like we did
years ago
in a soft world
where they
only checked
for fruit flies
Together again
ol woman
nara aelan
we think of
moons to come
Will they curve
right or left
at their turn
to turn full?

Bislama, ‘women from other islands’


Seen it before, god knows
how many times?
Remember the part
where she breaks his heart
in two short lines?

Black and white turn
into the blues.
One note from the wings
starts the long long song
of the end of things


Stupid with sunshine
we sail back at dusk

unspoilt southern part of the island
has been sold to an overseas
consortium for a figure in excess of
US$25 million according to reliable

Gulls on the pilings
cry out our return

sadly depleted. Experts are confident
that upgraded techniques will result
in an improved level of catch.
However, locals fear it is too late for

We wander, alone and
palely loitering

lacking the $1000 needed to provide
dental care for children under the
age of 5. At the village level, ad
-vanced caries is close to 87% in the

watching red sails in the sunset.

and the Minister for Tourism
assured visitors that such incidents
were highly unusual and that a full
apology would be forthcoming

There’s no one to meet us.
Perhaps we should sing.


I’m just a simple poet, she said when I walked in,
I came here on a literary jaunt
To see Thailand—Burma—China—the land of Gunga Din
To improve my art is all a girl could want.

She hesitated prettily—I never knew, she said
A life of letters could cost me such a pile!!
But one day a stranger told me, while getting out of bed,
He knew a way to make things worth my while.

White powder in my compact, sports bag packed with grass—
Drama! just like in Kipling! it can’t fail!
But they read me far too well and they pinched my sorry ass
Please God help me! They’ve tossed me into jail!

...So stay pure there, all you poets—don’t be like me today
Twenty long years surfing the road to Mandalay.