blackmail press 26
Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

from: Angipanis of the Abanimal People - Andy Leleisi'auo

A knot of nephews,
halyard of husbands,
string of sisters, braid
of brothers, connection
of cousins, rope of relations,
          attachment of aunts
                          all familial ties

Tall poppies

Be wary when planting
poppies. We are an
island nation

How can we ask the wind
to fill our regatta sails
and then

when tall poppies are
knocked down

Slightly off colour

She thought we’d purchased the house
from people of colour. Was surprised
I’d claimed the walls were
my own work

You know, she said, for this area, it is
very different. Not what one would
expect, it has rather a
Pacific flavour

Her words echoed in the hallway as
Tama emerged from our bedroom.
Don’t mind me, he said, I’m home sick,
slightly off colour

Pulling the plug
for Marg

She no longer feels confident in the bath
You hear of people getting stuck, she says

This morning with planning and precision,
courage and care, she takes the plunge

She allows the water to take her weight,
watches her toes bob up like white horses

Adrift she remembers, childish delight
when skin turned prune-like

The leaping, squealing, shivering, before
snuggling into the towel’s hug

Squirming as Mother rubbed hair dry and
tickled between toes

Sighing she looks at her body, her skin
now constantly bathed in wrinkles

There will be no leaping today. A decision,
to pull the plug before or after

disembarking. With slips in mind it’s a matter
of ensuring the softest landing

but then, there’s the possibility of drowning
She lies there, watches the water

draining away. All hands on deck she murmurs
as she negotiates her emergence

Reaching for the phone she calls me. You’re
off duty bosun, I’m safely ashore


Hospitals and helicopters
i.m. Pat Lawton

Rotors indicate an incoming helicopter,
the air conditioning is silenced.
Fumes and dust

suctioned through vents, are not
required on the wards

We deliver helicopters from their
autumnal landing pad, London St.
They spiral onto her bed

for our amusement. She is unaware
Humour is carefully balanced
against the pain

She has surrendered sentences,
enlisted essential words; drink,
yes, no

Raspberry cordial sucked from
a sponge colours her tongue.
She is dry, hot, and beside

herself. We encircle her bed with
love, it is not enough. We stay
until the darkness falls

During term time Ruth is the Attendance Officer and Funding Coordinator at a Dunedin Secondary School. In her spare time she edits the free quarterly Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ), A4 sized three-fold poetry cards which are distributed to rest home residents and patients waiting for medical appointments. Currently her distribution area is the lower half of the South Island (with Scott Base and Samoa finding their way into this mix!) When funding permits she hopes to provide this free service throughout NZ. An occasional blog may be found at