blackmail press 17
Rae Pater
new zealand

The Back Stairwell

At the top of the stairs
is a door with cracks of light
around its frame.

At the bottom
there's no way out,
only darkness, dust,
and the possibility of rats.

Alone, thirty seven and a virgin,
in this wreck of stones
where the walls have caved,

she twirls in front of a mirror
on the landing; stardust falling
all around her like a ballerina trail
across a stage, like a key
under a stone.

©Rae Pater

The Shape of a Key

She has made love with strangers
in rooms she didn't know.
She makes love to strangers
in rooms she doesn't know.

The light fittings differ,
so do the cracks in the plaster
and the tune in the background,
but they are all a shade of white
and the cobweb pendulum
floats on the same breath of air.

There are kisses
mingled with her hair,
skin slides and rises
in peaks and troughs.

Her eyes are closed,
her heart lies inside palace walls,
surrounded by a moat, beyond
a range of mountains
across a swamp.

Her mind is a dungeon -
a butterfly on the sill fans ruby wings,
its body the shape of a key.

©Rae Pater


In your hands I am made and unmade.
A tiny doll, spun in the circle
of your eye. Tucked in your dimple
the sparkle from my smile.

You feel like home to me.
Like the shore upon which the sea arrives
at journey's end.

©Rae Pater


The extent to which the book extends
is bound within its cover and stretches
through the vaunted halls of mind cathedrals
in signs and codes.

The book whose spine
follows the circle of library walls
is God - according to Borges -
and spins circles through space.

The space between books on shelves
in the library,
any library at any time,
remains a universal constant
over which a librarian has no control.

This page, a leaf that turns through cycles.
These letters, catalogue of scrawl on the toilet wall
by those who seek light
as they travel down rows of shelves,
neatly filed volumes dissolving into atoms
of information
transmittable via brainwaves
anatomical cables bridge
print to thought.

A conversation with God,
with gods of words in ceremonial procession
covering page after page,
coordinated page and word.

Titles by authors long dead,
the scarecrow straw and stuff of their heads.
'Oh time thy pyramids,
thy labyrinth of letters'
how we scramble and climb
through their thorns and dust
for meaning
and find only the beauty of symbols,
a simulacrum of beauty.
We search now for alternatives
through spaces, silences, the narratives unwritten.

How long have we stumbled uncomprehending,
and who writes the findings of the search,
the narratives of the searchers?

Is there, somewhere, a writer penning
in slanted gold calligraphy ...
'In the beginning the word was ...'

©Rae Pater


My life is being swallowed
in gargantuan gulps.
No matter how I try
to evade its leviathan mouth
the clock keeps swimming toward me
arms spinning, water churning
crosscurrents behind it.

Before one groove is worn
smooth from one rock
I will disappear into the maw.
More transient than
the waters of internet
upon which my ash is sprinkled.

©Rae Pater