blackmail press 34
Raewyn Alexander
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Raewyn Alexander exhibited poetry and visual art in May 2011, at Satellite Gallery, Newton Auckland. She put punk rockers on Captain Cook's ship, "The Scavengers and The Suburban Reptiles sailed with Cook on the Endeavour, of course, who else would he have as crew? Then Proud Scum and The Spelling Mistakes were at the signing of The Treaty of Waitangi, naturally." Her latest book is A Bee Lover's Poetry Companion from Earl of Seacliff and she's embarking on a Poetic Tour of America in 2012, planting trees to cover the carbon cost of it.
I'm allowed to be shocking and young and violent

Mary told me so while she ironed
My Bloody Valentine oozed from the laptop
a slab of aluminium on an upside-down quilt

book illustrations done with a knife
two young men held a cat and a photo of one
in the background a teepee on fire

making things with each other
boiling down the evidence to skulls and jewellery
tattoo still-life models

these marks where I bit myself free of memory
bloody teeth when you saved me
ate through my dirt

Tom Sawyer

Him by the Mississippi

and me near the Waikato River.

He liked to trawl

his neighbourhood befriending

ragamuffin children,

and so did I.

Tom Sawyer ran away.

I planned the same,

but local wanderers

curious, followed.

Some toddler needed their mother,

we had to trail back along our street

to find a parent.

Bringing home stragglers,

thinking our sky stretched further.

Lived half-inside books

devoted to invention.

Later found myself by Twain's river.

Friends drew me overseas,

international angels of the internet.

Our voices flying - such grins.

Mark Twain's name from a riverboat,

two fathoms meant you were safe.

Pairs of us running away

together where they lived;

keeping each other afloat

such journeys of words.

New York City's the place where


a vampire dressed as a ten year old
drank cider in a blue neon bar
this corporate pilot with jet pix for bait
while the barmaid once from Waitomo
pogoed the length of 100 + years

streets roar all evening with unknown names

leave your origin at the train station
the crowd may call you anything
yellow taxis swarm for money
faces float by with such geography
the hotel front desk guy in lavender

pedestrians with one eye on the trash bins

Soho red pistol earring boutique
bookshop cafe with the smallest tables
New Zealand accent provoked socialising
this city swallows every morsel offered
digested NYC condoms and pistachio pastry

Chinese restaurant pushing drunks out the door

a Lower East Side lawn caged fear
cafe doors the yawns of monsters
(he warned her she'd be eaten alive)
post office queue woman chewed gum
black sass in all-white stretch dazzle

over a hillock in a sidewalk garden to eat
mailing creatures to friends
bulged the cardboard box a little
perspex shields opened and closed
outside the blue post-box and graffiti
homeless people draped in utensils

taxi driver with his tongue between his teeth


MOMA fed me revolutionary paint
sculpture of a woman falling into water
'I kissed a man
during Andy Warhol's Kissing film,'
someone wrote with felt-tip pen

a cafe couple fired soft questions at each other

bright pink cattle pasted up the stairs
nine statements chalked by people
from a country at war - on video
the dark room besides full of screens
nonchalant walls as ready as not knowing

hunker down banks with wrap-around dark windows

a rabbit-man met by Grand Central's clock
made me a local with a subway ride
punk rock history unreeled behind us
deli food and a discussion about guns
lost then found our way to Strawberry Fields

the rickshaw driver bargained with using silence

glitter paintings appeared holy
in an artist's 72nd St railway apartment 
lantern flames outside the Dakota
overlooking Imagine Circle and guitars
Central Park a mecca of walking

moved the hydrangea to see a brass plaque

Isaac Newton's portrait in Pete's Tavern
the oldest NY bar black and white
poetry luncheon sat beside a geneticist
I cried later to hear the Brownings
recorded by Broadway stars with music

the cold counter plastered in curved posters

discovered a Jack Kerouac school flyer
disembodied poetics on yellow and red
in the Bowery Poetry Club
thought about Miles in France emailing
'everyone's insane there as far as I know'

cab drivers dither as if they're the strangers

a Russian manicurist didn't take cards
one taxi nearly drove off with my bag
I smacked his boot and swore murder
people across the way in cafe sunshine
bundled the street into our pockets

ATM machine shuffles money into a stack

hailing a ride from the roadside
discovered a spiked leather creature
kindly nodded - back seat of a cab
while Chinatown held slower directions
then a golden bank foyer on Park Avenue
a pizza box can get some people in anywhere


tall New York Times bought on the corner
took home some sections to give away
left a bag of change and lilies in the room
dollar notes strewn on the bed
air conditioner's rattle silent

carpeted hotel corridors lit out

when departure descended like a bat
so many said to stay with them
I was offered a job in a city garden
then cave walk and wheel to the bus 
cellphone died on the ride to Newark

pooled places wide with railings and windows

leaving NYC the finish and a start
contradictions in the way of the view
enormous grey bridges and stretched water
a roll of knowing too much to say
kept in the dark of my skull camera

wake a talk while the sighs play shoo ba doo honey

- title a line from the Lou Reed song, Walk on the Wild Side.

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