S  e  c  r  e  t  s   blackmail press 24
Ruth Arnison
New Zealand

Ruth Arnison works in the Student Office in a secondary school in Dunedin. Her poems have appeared in journals and ezines including Deep South, Takahe, Cadenza, Orbis,  foam:e, Snorkel, and Right hand pointing. With assistance from PitWR (UK)  she is coordinating the pilot programme of Poems in the Waiting Room (an arts in health project) in Dunedin.
and your masks

infecting our lives
with exuberance

eyebrows rising with delight
to your hairless hairline

eyes erupting laughter
before your smile had a chance
to catch up

colourful clothing,
now recognised as

what did you need
that hope couldn’t hold

how could death
seem the better option

It’s not thicker

So he made up a game, just for fun, no harm
but she wouldn’t play

His wants interpreted as her requests. His
imaginings, her supposed desires

Negative responses didn’t rebuff him
With her reputation who they gonna believe?

He persisted. When she ensnared him
by telling, he turned creative

She hadn’t counted on his storytelling skills,
had underestimated family ties

Phone calls unanswered, visits that stopped,
lives suddenly too busy

Supported by water she watched her blood
slipping away and realised, it’s not thicker

This isn’t your life

Whenever the phone rang she spoke
to dial tones. Silence filled every
room she entered, eye contact
not held

but males can hold secrets

Once she caught on she:
hurried through her fold, hide, and wipe
two-minute housework regime, mixed
a batch of scents dancing trays in and
out of her oven warm kitchen, tweezered
her face, flossed her teeth, and practised
her smile while thinking

maybe secrets are too hard to hold
but we are supreme multitaskers

By 3.30 she was organised, prepared for
the surprise of her life. Sitting in front
of the box at 8.30, in her clean house,
she watched someone else’s life

Removing plastic flowers

Someone is leaving flowers, plastic
flowers         stuffed behind the
shrub we planted

I wish they’d find comfort by
another headstone

I am her mother.      They
are upsetting me

There is enough death around here
without lifeless flowers
on my daughter’s grave