blackmail press 18
Olivia Macassey
New Zealand

Olivia Macassey was born in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1975. She spent her childhood on the Coromandel Peninsula and now lives in Auckland. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry New Zealand,  Brief, Magazine, Tongue in Your Ear, in student publications such as Craccum, and on the compilation CD Aural Ink. Her first book of poems, Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, was published by Titus in 2005.

Link: Olivia Macassy

Venus in Mission Bay

Was there a shadow over me
was there
was there a shadow?

Nostalgia has sticky fingers; it leaves
marks on tables, it slides over glass

Was there a bird wheeling overhead
was there,
were there half-grown black-backs
in the wind like alert beaked dogs,
were their strange cries
hoarse in my ears, were they
pulling  at   strands    of     my      hair?

Nostalgia waltzes with memory; spinning
til we’re dizzy and we all fall down. Were

my feet on a shell was I rising from the waves
in a foam flecked sea in an offshore wind
and the stolen sand lying even and pale
and the grass soothed down –
did a fountain watch my face with a verdigris eye
did the flowers of the pohutukawa lie? and spring
recoil? Was a shadow over me?

Was I fairest of the fair, did I take your breath away
or were you asking for spare change; was it raining
in fact, raining
as I rose
from that dirty greygreen sea; did the shadow
reach longer and the day creep away, and gulls
all abandon us against a broken sky?

Nostalgia gives me brittle wings. Was there,
stretched through the rough air and
falling on the grass –
was there a shadow over you
that I cast?

Letter to the moon


I have watched through the warm grass as you
curved out of sea on a summer’s night,

walked home beside you in lonely streets
among bare trees and bitter evenings;

risked madness to sleep with you, your light
tangled with my hair on the pillow.

Oh Moon, I have longed for you and longed
without wanting or needing,

noticed you poised on careful points
during days when we had no assignation.

Amidst darknesses and inconstant weather, I’ve
waited forever for a glimpse of your face.

You draw no nearer. Your touch is cold.

Do you not love me yet
not even a little?

noir interlude. . .  (1)

There’s a light rain outside. I pull down the cheap windowshade and I nurse my whiskey and I wear my hat just how you’d expect.
Okay I’ll start in the middle with an image that started haunting me today
a movement the sudden shock of things
I didn’t see eight years ago when eight years was half way to        everywhere
when bartenders still grinned at me thinking - she’ll learn
yeah eight years ago you were shaking, drunken, screaming into the lens
and your eyes were closed when they were open, not catlike
nothing remotely   authentic then

What kind of hell did you believe you inhabited? The clearest
thing about the image is your right hand
reaping handfuls of her hair,  the barest vestige
of your self-reflexive smile embedded in the cocoon  
I expect myself to call it innocence at any minute now, jesus
I expect you to buy me a drink  now, and I’m damned if I’m telling you why.

In the city of your childhood

In the city of your childhood
I remember how it formed you;
those lovely indeterminate
trees with oddly bent branches
the shape of old catastrophes.
The buildings all of one era,
monument to an endless day after.

Last time I saw you
was on some kind of march.
You were laughing down,
had sized him up
and not found me wanting,

or you were frozen in unexpected light
some time after midnight, quickly flicked
the switch
leaving me sitting there in darkness with
a lap full of newspaper
and the image of you in orange underpants
burnt into my retina for ever.

Some things walk with you
as you walk away from them.

I go swimming
in the city of your childhood;
that inhospitable, implacable beach
heaping and heaping its mounds of stones
filling our eyes with wide horizon.

The flight into the desert

Why would you not look down and see
the city before you
who would not look and see
my city beneath you naked in all its finery?

Dawns of sleeping in the car
nights of fire without smoke,
liars lying about liars.

They speak of Sodom, where men wanted
to embrace angels, but not of Gomorrah
the afterthought, the also-destroyed

or of what happened there.

No one remembers your wet hair on your shoulders,
or the way you would laugh in the streets
or how they would ring with your name
or even the streets

I remember that night we were
supposed to be leaving;
your hands gripped my hips
you fell to your knees behind me
and looking back over my shoulder I
felt myself turning to salt.

by deed poll

I wonder what it would be like
to be able to change your name,
really change it? Because
I don’t believe you can;
not your Real name. When it really boils down,
all deed polls deaths deceptions marriages and disseminations
are just layers over your Real name.
They all come out in the wash.

(And when we find it again you are lost,
you Rumpelstiltskin,
crouching naked in the bottom of the pot.)