Thoughts and feelings by poets and artists in Aotearoa.
Edited and Published by Maisie Chilton Tressler, Lizzie Murray and Jane Paul. Published online with the help of Oliie McCormick at Sisterhood Magazine. Cover art and cicada poem by Lizzie Murray Instagram.com/saltypoems
cicadas before the birth of art and muses, cicadas were once human. songs of the first muses consumed the mortals. they ate song and drank dance their whole short lives and died without noticing. the deities pitied their self sacrifice and turned the dead into the loud, shiny insects so they could chant day and night sustained only by the musesâ€™ gifts in return the cicadas spy on the remaining humans and inform the goddesses of who has honoured them
Contents Dawn Ronia Ibrahim
A regular arousal Amy Marguerite Crerar
Late Cicadas Abigail Sucsy
Bare Maisie Chilton Tressler
Sun Lizzie Murray
Lemon Cake Ronia Ibrahim
Wellington Born Tui Lou Christie
Urban Safari Charlie Pearson
Intercity Bus Ride, Wellington CBD to Waipukurau Lara Coddington
Moth Briana Jamieson
Lavender Snakes, Sundays Sophie MacDonald
Waratah and Kangaroo jaw Alice Fennessy
Seven Things Nithya Narayanan
Sunflowers Maisie Chilton Tressler
Disparate Summers E J Banbury
Untitled Lizzie Murray
Mother and Child Maisie Chilton Tressler
Yew daughter Jane Paul
Untitled & You always made me uneasy Caterina Detti
after noon Isha Anderson
A secret I keep from my boyfriend Rata Holtslag
Summer fruit Nina Harper
Love Poems Ronia Ibrahim
Leave Only Footsteps Sara Hirsch
haircut Ash Davida Jane
Untitled Emilie Hope
In the pink Maisie Chilton Tressler and Richard Harkness
we grow tomatoes Ash Davida Jane
My Shadow Georgia Phillips
little gods Lizzie Murray
A moment from that night at Moon Bar: a confession Maggie Leigh White
The Swarming Hordes Maggie Leigh White
Jonathan Peters Slurry
When I wake up, I wake up from streams of sun sieved through the webbing of foliage Shrinking my pupils, I recoil like a dried plum, seeking shelter from solstice The earthâ€™s tides beckon me into sepia-toned slumber Telling me to keep dreaming, sticking a dandelion in my mouth Now I am shivering in slow motion, because I know that the universe is blooming in between my lips and I must blow, blow, blow, before my body burns down.
a regular arousal
i woke up combusting: salt-thick skin throbbing against moth sheets that swallow and bend as i leak onto them what leaked onto me. if iâ€™m honest i have lived this way (galvanic) for years now, much longer than the limbs that once held a child body of thrill i am weathered. petroleum lines my souvenir skull thickset with token nothings: omens that cannot be pruned or discipled, that bear teeth to the moon and become its flesh. and i do not ask if this is me because i am too much aware that it is me in the shape of a thing, question mark, an arthropod with its hull hung loose drooping appendages and vector bite 6
i am most uncouth:
i trace a no-longer flame to its original song the one that woke me sung back an eyelash and made me wild. and i must prepare myself for the miles i will eat sheet-bound, the lint i will wear ceremoniously beneath my eyes. and this is all. i cannot begin like this. lying. Amy Marguerite Crerar.
The cicadas are up late today. Usually they are up before dawn, Singing me awake to a blushing unkempt morning. They are sleeping in today. I go out & shake my fists at them, “Wake up you lazy bastards!” They know I am just joking, (I say hello to my teapot) They & I both know why they sleep in. It is late summer, they are all dying. What happens next year, when it is not a boomer year? Who will sing me to sleep? Who will feed the baby birds? Big questions for us to ponder: the birds, cicadas & I. I lay still as you roll about in your relevations. You ask me to write you a poem. You say it “poe-mm” “Who about?” I ask. Late cicadas. Late bloomer, You’ve been left alone on the wing. A cicada singing out of season. Born after only 14 years, You are anomalous, You are the only hope.
I found my collarbone among red fruit and sun salutations
The day before, we spent hours in the kitchen Using the lemons from the bag of lemons that the neighbour Gifted us We made a lemon cake Iâ€™ve still got grains of sugar under my fingernails I shook my hands and Beads of water Got onto the icing footprints in the snow We had to open the windows We marked the date on our calendars in fat permanent ink And waited everyday the lemon cake, begotten from rain and sun Birthed from sweat and sugar It sat there Every morning we rushed out of bed to cross yesterday off The cake got warmer and sweeter The air baking it into a deeper yellow And then the day came so We waited in the dark Only the glow of the lemon cake flickered against our fingers interlaced We prayed for you to come already We prayed for rain If you looked outside it was raining Infinite lemons
My brother, nature baby. Born a gleeful huhu grub at the edge of the forest. Wet slip clay fists, unfurling ponga frond toes. You see, he came out this waywith silver eyes. My brother, calm as kawakawa. Straight cut greywacke profile, carved in the curve of Breaker Bay, his harakeke hair plaited like poi or piupiu. My brother, Tall as a tĹ?tara. Graduation cap and korowai carried by harbourwide shoulders. He speaks for his peers with a flaxwork grin, and the cadence of a korimako.
Tui Lou Christie
I chased after a pretty white boy on a skateboard last week. He must have lost his shirt. I didn’t run – running in public spaces has criminal overtones. I wanted to give him my spare shirt (I always have a spare shirt in my bag). Unrelated 2nd bullet point. A footpath beside a skatepark. Situation: almost crying in the presence of broad daylight. Diagnosis: It had nothing to do with the skatepark. And like I said, the skatepark had nothing to do with the boy on the skateboard. Homosexual interpretation: T he boy on the skateboard just wanted to go really fast. To feel the breeze against his little pink nipples. All he wanted was straight and flat was the footpath. Was the nothingness against his sprawling hairlessness. was doing something like chasing cars, or searching for Alice.
1st conclusion: It had nothing to do with him It had nothing to do with how broad the daylight happened to be that day. But it was so broad. And it was so big. As big as the day before, and if I’m correct, the following day it was about the same. Annotation: the boy’s shirt was hanging from his pants pocket.
Intercity Bus Ride, Wellington CBD to Waipukurau
Suns/ Sons smile at me Oblivious to what their mother is on the phone about. I cannot walk in their shoes but I can hear their footprints. The earth rolls and moves beneath us It can mold to my feet It can mold to my body All of us just passengers as we hope to make our way to safety We live in the patches of tar in-between these pockets of green. We live in between the knuckles of a giant. (Or Between the feet of a taniwha.) (We live in the space in between shoulder blades that you can stick your figures in, nails on skin on bone) When the giant stretches his hand to offer, we all tremble His generosity is our disaster. Myth won’t save us now. The myth is long forgotten trajectory with equally as forgotten characters. They are broken hearted with in bloom flowers as protection. (Petals fall and rot just like any other.) Words can’t protect us if people can’t. We are in too deep into this land Now just churned up mud, once mighty farmland What good is fleeing if you never know what safety looks like. What good is home if you never learnt to build a fire.
Today I walked up onto the driveway and I stopped for no reason other than being caught in a moment of thought and awareness of the colours and air around me. I stood there staring into the trees and then as I looked down, across me on the driveway was a large moth. It was the same colour as the clothes I was wearing: pale, dusty, grey-brown, and its body was soft and furry, with large wings stretched out like dry leaves on the concrete. The moth was facing me and I was facing the moth and for a while I felt like it was watching me, like it meant something, like it was a sign. Its tattered wings caught the breeze, fluttering up and down gently. I stretched, the fabric of my own clothes floated around in the wind, and I went back inside. The next time I went outside I looked at the driveway and there was no moth. I looked at the parcel in the letterbox: not for me, and then walked to the top of the road, eating a peach, leaning over slightly as juice dropped to the ground. It is late summer, all the grass has gone honey dry and the cicadas have finally started singing. I turned around to walk back down the hill and there on the ground near the letterbox was the moth. It had appeared out of nowhere and I was facing it and it was facing me.
Lavender Snakes, Sundays
On my way to class there are hedges of Lavender. Well-tended to, the small purple heads have been cut off, to maintain a perfectly rectangular lavender snake that slithers its way beside the footpath. A watchful reptile, heeding all passers-by, a slow eye, gazing, in protection of its 90 degree enforcing, head cutting, owners’ home from potential intrusion. Granny let the lavender snake keep its many heads. I remember the tune of those days so brightly; Sunday afternoon, roll down the hill, grass stains on my pants, my nails have dirt under them and, Do you think that the sun can see me? I am spinning around faster than I ever have before. The world blurs, my knees buckle and Poppa calls: ‘supper is ready!’ And I am nothing but giggles in a heap. We’re having orange juice and Vita Wheat crackers (with cheese and tomato and pepper), and Do you think the sun can tell how happy we are? Maybe it’s because the lavender snake got to keep its heads or maybe It’s because their god had some warmth leftover for me. On my way to class, I decapitate one of the lavender snakes’ many heads and I use my thumb to press it into each of my wrists. 15
days; Maybe, I will wake up, in that same twin bed; Maybe, orange juice will be poured and potatoes will be dug and Poppa will be sitting by the fire, in conversation with the cat.
Seven Things 1 that thing on your arm (the one that looks like a small purple Australia) it’s just a bruise looks like a lesion, says the doctor fingering your skin like a lover I watch you taste the word: lee-shun… leigh-tion? l-e-s-i-o-n so what do we do? asks Mum the doctor’s mouth puckers uncertainly like he wants to kiss her he doesn’t kiss her instead he says: let’s do a biopsy 2 I have a day-dream as we wait for the results: I imagine your skin under the bright glare of a microscope the pathologist squints through the lens it’s just a mole, he says just a beauty spot just a love bite 3 the doctor has colour-coded your treatment plan the page drowns in all those psychedelic colours we’re just trialling the drugs, he says but when I look at the calendar it is coloured all over like a Rubik’s cube 4 your boyfriend brings fruit you are sleeping so he eats the entire bunch himself and then falls asleep on the chair juice dripping down his chin into his shirt if you had felt well enough to kiss him he would have tasted of grapes
5 you start sleeping a lot sometimes when you are half-awake the whites of your eyes disappear leaving just the black and as I stare into them I feel my organs come apart slowly slowly in that deep onyx sea I come apart 6 here is what I want: I want to slip you out of your toxic skin the way you unpeel a fruit I want to suck the poison from your blood (Edward Cullen style) I want us to re-enter our mother through that horrible hole in her heart and there sailing along currents of blood past her lovely licorice tubes I will wrap you in endometrium and protect you 7 in the New Year I bring messages from school you groan: theyâ€™re a phony bunch I offer to read the Marc Antony speech from Julius Caesar that you always had a strange preference for but you say: read me one of your poems instead and so I read you this one
It’s the kind of heat that sees you throw off your shirt in defeat to let the sun have its way. Everybody knows about melanoma but you’re 20 and it could never happen to you, the protagonist of life. Your young skin will never dry or wrinkle. You sprawl on the grass with friends, drinking beer and forgetting to eat until the sun sets late in the evening and you all spill, sleepy and reeking of sunblock, into the kitchen. The night devolves into revelry. Heat seeking bodies, seeking each other, clustered together to better inhale the ocean smell of dried sweat and SPF15. It’s the most primal time of the year. Shorn of winter pelts, eyes obscured and teeth bared, you’re a group of beached dolphins, slippery smooth and helpless, longing to be wet down. Tender and exposed. Eager hand on bodies, eager mouths dripping.
It’s the kind of heat that has your parents smiling nervously, “there’s no need to get upset,” at you across the Christmas table, while the ants under your skin (frozen by a year of therapy) start to thaw and you wriggle in your chair. The middle class opens its arms and pulls you back into abundance and impotence. It’s easy to dip your eyes to your plate and let the joys of driving and flying and buying and marie-kondo-ing swill in the muggy air. Out in the back yard, pulling beers through gritted teeth, head swimming in the heat, with no hope of a cool kitchen and late-night relief. It’s paranoia season. Your family’s inside trying out new cocktails and eating meat. You sit still amongst the azaleas, picking petals from their starburst buds until night falls. The restless energy of early summer parties is sour on your breath. You chew your lip about skyrocketing temperatures in December and listen to the shouts of laughter from the kitchen. Happy families in happy homes, sucking down happiness ad infinitum.
It’s the kind of summer where the sun shines red and wind shakes the peninsula while you nervously eye the apocalyptic sky, the too-golden light streaming in through the living room window. Rousing yourself you traipse into the bush in silence, lie down on fallen branches and lament. You can hear the refrain in coffee shops, over the slap of jandals on the street, and most of all in parks and by the sea. It reverberates through the city in anxious conversations. 21
Everybody is afraid the world will end, and perversely afraid that it won’t. The birds are silent in the afternoon heat. The bushes rustle: lizards or rats? You’re afraid of the stretch of time that swells in summer afternoons because it feels like an early taste of the long years yawning ahead of you. You are in the summer of life. You are sick at the thought of the autumn. You are prone on the hearth, staring into the belly of a fire, hopelessly, bewildered by the cries from within. It’s the kind of summer to turn anybody vain, switched off at the brain under the hard sun, un-dulled by ozone. Anger and fear are sedatives and you stare, bleary-eyed, into the sky where there is smoke but no flame. Lethargy abounds. You slip from the air-conditioned office - with weak ankles shaking over uneven rocks - down to the river to float on your back. This summer feels like the last summer, just like every summer for the past ten years. You experience each one with freshly jaded eyes. In the water you’re all carefree and cool until, in the water.... no, your blood starts to boil. Stressed out soaking in overburdened waterways, stressed with algal bloom.
E J Banbury
Mother and child.
There is a squeeze around my shoulders, and I am back In the place where the air hangs heavy around my ankles, and the great walls crush. My home detention bracelet is gold plated and moulded perfectly to follow the curves of my abdomen.
I always go to the same place when I look for you, you are never there. You left, and took all of gravity with you left us with nothing but the dust gathers on your frozen nightstand and in the vase of your body and on the fading lilac nightgown with its childhood nightmares threaded into the seams rotting at the bottom of the cupboard (I find it when I dig.) disintegrates with the rest of us, and the clarity of feeling of what it is, to miss you.
Here is the tomb you built, to mourn you in and I am caretaker of the garden, playing hopscotch in glassy air, and bringing roses to your death-bed. There is a squeeze, this is the execution. Dead heads fall, wither In their papery fading skins.
Wallow down in the blackening bath each squeeze causes the dry fingers to bleed.
Snip their little necks make room for new growth. Here we are, treading our limbs, in the glassy black air handles bending too far backwards into themselves. Violent pangs of grief rush index finger. A corporal mortification. Youâ€™ve achieved sanctification of the highest order.
There is a squeeze, and I clutch the hollow, ceramic and ash against my chest rock these Imitation hips of yours the way you would have. Mother and child.
Maisie Chilton Tressler
Yew daughter I am a dead woman's daughter A grown boys child A ghost of a mother Sits in my hips The length and the shade Of my hair It falls in the clogged drain And the water laps at my feet I hold her chin In the clench of my jaw Days hang low Like bent yew trees The graveyard is reincarnating And she is told she has 6 weeks We count the country miles In footsteps In second hand boots That are too big to be filled On the shortest day Tombstones beckon Black crows clawing At thick mist When it lifts They see the shape of my face The flash of my eyes Birds cawing in the distance
On occasion I watch the world melt, that happens sometimes, It’s like the steady rhythm of time marching on goes out, The ringing in my ear becomes like a wave, Then like an ocean, So I make wine, From the berries I find on the trees, I haven’t been dreaming, Because I have barely slept, And when I do, It’s blank, Or just that man walking, Around an elevator, The dog barks, And a child cries, I turn on to my left side, As the last rays of sun stream in, And my last thoughts die
A secret I keep from my boyfriend
Sappho, Oh how I’ve been dreaming of you. Conjuring supple, supine colleagues with long and wet hair and child-bearing hips dappled with cellulite. Soft lips, hair and skin, I press them to mine. Soft hair brushes against my upper lip and I tug at a strand, like silk between finger and thumb. Turn you over. You are shorter than me and I can picture a pink-red, angry Welt the size and shape of my small and soft hands forming on your squishy, happy skin. Oh Sappho, I’ve been dreaming of blonde, intelligent women with interests akin to mine whose tiny wrists my small hands can encompass. Whose pale legs I can drape Over mine And whose expensive clean shampoo scent lingers in my nostrils long after I’m back home with my boyfriend.
I always thought love poems would go something like Trembling butter cup fingers Filigree skin But really love poems go something like I’m so hungry all I’ve eaten is the butt of bread you left on the table And now I have that Lorde song stuck in my head I always thought love poems would go something like When you blow into my ear I breathe out wisps of your conscience But really they go like Please don’t forget me, please please please I hate all men Except you I keep blinking So my eyes are awash, new tears I only see the same purity the words here are sterile love letters you’ll hold with latex thumbs I will never cry writing a love poem If I ever did It would go like
Leave Only Footsteps
I base my definition of irony on a song I only know the chorus to I drop the oregano bottle and season the floor with glass I undercook the eggs and watch you walk barefoot to the dishwasher As a baby, I used to eat the shells I listen for the familiar crunch as you cross the kitchen Getting bits of my bad stuck in your toenails I think you might be the good advice I just didnâ€™t take Sometimes it is hard to tell what youâ€™re walking on I wonder whether we always need to know Or whether there can be joy in just guessing
haircut I’m overconfident with cheap hairdressing scissors in the kitchen under the electric light with the blinds down to save the moths some bewilderment piles of hair dot the linoleum small brown mammals for whom we are now responsible outside
the rest of the world is making decisions and acting on them and I’m here thinking about how romantic it is to own half a fridge we dream we can keep out the weather by keeping the windows shut and down the street so does everybody else as the lens widens the centre pulls back see the line of apartments each with kitchen lights on somebody sautés onions in a frying pan and empties the skins brown and round into the compost someone rinses their rice the water-turned-to-milk swirling down the drain somebody else finds a spider on the bathroom floor and transfers it to the back step still alive their hands shake but they still have to live with themselves the scissors curve around your ear and slowly bring themselves back together with a metallic whisper tiny shards of clipped hair cling to the skin as if magnetised we get through the evening it doesn’t save us but it does not mean nothing the weight of the blinds pulling on the string the spider’s dart into the dark
Ash Davida Jane 32
I enter her she touches me where it hurts she touches me where it doesnâ€™t she washes me like a mammal licking her newborn my tendons are kneaded with her delicate touches the verbal contract with others freezes words zip zapping around me like the click clacking of cicadas are silent I hear only the hum of her heartbeat I am with her she is my church I have confessed I leave her her saliva dried on my skin her tears in my hair left everything with her to erode she is everything I want and am Emilie Hope
we grow tomatoes in the first place we make a home
we buy round plastic pots &
fill them slowly with spoonfuls of earth
we dig tiny cradles
in the centre for the seedlings to sit in blankets of dirt & tuck them in water them daily
we cover the roots with
we say goodnight
pouring cup upon cup onto the dry soil so it
sinks deep & calls the roots home
we snip off the laterals when
they appear in the elbows & knees
we tie ribbons
around the stems & anchor them to bamboo backbones we come home drunk & I kiss the tiny green fruit starting to form we come inside from tending the plants & our hands smell alive and bitter
try & find perfume in a bottle this fucking fresh
we throw parties & tell the guests the tomato plants
donâ€™t put out your cigarettes in
one of these babies is worth ten of you
look at the painted green of those new leaves
where the stems meet in a perfect angle
Ash Davida Jane
little gods insects stay small because they donâ€™t have lungs yet their cries reach the stars Lizzie Murray
My Shadow Sweet ghosts of us translucent and floating cast no shadows upon the ground We walk hand in hand Feeling light as new lovers do Before what is found and what is lost rise to the surface in a brew of complication. Georgia Phillips
A moment from that night at Moon Bar: a confession
The way you look when you’re caught up in the music makes me believe in the divine ecstasy of saints — strings and voices billowing around you like silk under water suspended with the illusion of motion painted in wild stillness you move me — head thrown back to taste the haze streaked in blue shadows cheap red in a cloudy glass stained lips a real-time renaissance of vibrations of desire of softness all fades to vanishing point and all the margins containing everything dissolve and disappear into the coloured lights — while this vision of you burns smoulders like incense you turn to smoke and dance me out beyond the very edges of myself and leave me there reverent and swaying with the idea of being closer to you even though we are here in this room close enough to touch.
Maggie Leigh White 37
I miss the smell of compost. Sitting in the ups and downs, surrounded by discount today only and nothing to see here. Cars crackle into distance and I think of a time where we sat, nestled against the wall, good posture, ninety degrees on your bed, watching the silence, and the noise, of the glowing grey, turquoise by the salt lamp, textured and rustling, light and shadowlands outside your window. I miss the silence of the mountain. The moonrise removed from foreground, and the climb home. the wind waking me up and the sunrise telling me itâ€™s time to go to bed. And you are still there, in the freedom, in the rolling zone, in a state of flow, ready to jump, at a momentâ€™s notice, into the sea. You are still there. On the shores of narrow beaches, collecting shells and sand, in the valleys and under the trees, collecting plants and seeds as they slip into your shoes.
A Wellington-based poetry and art zine which focuses on the introspective process of healing and self-reflection. Published each season.
Published on Apr 5, 2020
A Wellington-based poetry and art zine which focuses on the introspective process of healing and self-reflection. Published each season.