blackmail press 37
Mary Creswell
New Zealand

Mere & Child - Penny Howard
Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on the Kapiti Coast. Her collection of ghazals and glosas, Fish Stories, will be published by Canterbury University Press in 2015.

We hear all the mutter
shouting the sunlight
sliding past paddocks

bush-bashing our ears:
starlings and blackbirds
waxeyes and warblers

then we hear nothing
one farewell flicker
too quick for an echo

in this test for sound
sunlight shuts down
with no one to listen

and there’s only the scratch
of the fingernail moon
scraping the ridge

but at first light we hear
the birds coming back
one by one:

to the fences and trees
one – two – one – two
tui – tui – tui – tui – tui


Nine point three you stand, with hundred-foot waves. You drown two hundred thousand, bodies rot in the mangroves, bodies burn in the sun.
           Are you my mother?

You rip the ground open, toss hillsides and buildings into rubble. You crush my sisters and brothers beneath, and they die too fast to cry.
           Are you my mother?

You sneak through laboratories, too quiet to hear, too quick to catch. You swallow the big-money microscopes and take every life you find.
           Are you my mother?

You’ve spent years shaping me. Can you see my evils and inroads, my wars and inventions?  Can you see who I am?
           Of course you can.
           You’re my mother.


The ship that came to grief
is almost visible today:

When it was launched
it towered harsh and high

running before the wind
tracking the seven seas

until that storm when
all aboard were lost.

Follow the sound: once
upon a time bronze cannon

bucked and spat. Now it’s
just the scratch – scratch – scratch

of gravel on metal, on and on,
like standing by someone

who’s always listening
through cheap headphones.


because your name comes across the tongue so trippingly
because you were dredged up from Cook Strait so drippingly

because you are so pink in places and spiky in others
and you stink in the sunlight where the seagulls hover

because you are so not a volute, of your own volition,
keeping your spikes gelled into submission

because tracing your torque tracks the earliest set
of rules where heat makes work makes heat work heat

flake it till you make it, get a quick name for fame
because you work the work and torque the torque, all the same.