Poems by Renée and guest poets.


Posted on Jul 30, 2014 | Comments Off on Wellington

There’s an attitude you need for living here.
It’s not resilience, although you might need that
as well. No, it’s a kind of defiance.
Wellington is good at defiance. In the face of gales
that in other cities would snatch off roofs or lift trees
out of the ground by their roots, it hunkers down.
It doesn’t flinch at the odd tree felled on a car,
building materials hurled across a yard –
they’re minor matters – it just has to stay head down
and wait for the wild wind to blow on through.
In the face of scorn, it pulls out flags and slogans  
– ‘the coolest little capital in the world.’
Its cafes brazenly spread in all weathers
out on the street in a stoical al fresco.
It resolutely rides the trains. No matter the breakdowns,
stoppages, frustrations, it pours itself
through the railway station morning and night,
a show of strength for good enviro–practice.
And on still days it glitters enchantingly
round the glassy harbour, preening itself
on all its virtues, and stubbornly defying the odds.

Adrienne Jansen

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My mother looking at stars

Posted on Jul 23, 2014 | Comments Off on My mother looking at stars

Each morning in the small hours
my mother pads from bed and back
with a pause for stargazing.

Her body wakes her.  The stars watch her.
What connects them: this she puzzles
and finds pleasure in no answer

but three elements: flesh, spirit
and steely starlight.  I count
she thinks, because I am aware

and care to look at stars for a moment
allowing them to wake me, more than
my body does, being a craft

merely.  While their gaze judges
with benignity the watcher of the watchers.
I am close to stars in the night.


Elizabeth Smither

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Some history from the tender country

Posted on Jul 16, 2014 | Comments Off on Some history from the tender country

Waxy brown parcels tied with string
are delivered and collected from the house
in the Rue de Jacob. Tea and molasses, tubes
of haemorrhoid cream and lozenges go to Italy
for Romaine Brookes. A scarf pin and a handbag
stuffed with ten pound notes goes to England
for Dolly Wilde’s rehab. Death comes to the Archbishop
and The Glass Harp are on order. Katherine Mansfield’s
Letters arrived today. They say you are the heroine
of all the outstanding books this season.


Mary-Jane Duffy

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Posted on Jul 9, 2014 | Comments Off on Cartography

look up a map
touch a morning
see the rail track
add the sound of marchers
feel the weight of hope
freight of history
look up a map


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Posted on Jul 2, 2014 | Comments Off on Afterwards

‘Afterwards we got drenching summer rain/a
blackbird hopped out onto the backyard/all chest &
pluck/we stayed inside/watched the rain slant the
hills/I said it was a proper New Zealand
summer/never all bloody sunshine/but blue &
bloody the way a heart can be/that holiday we
buried our dog with her head pointing toward the
sea/I put my hand against my collarbone/while
watching rain’

Richard Langston

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Tread slow

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 | Comments Off on Tread slow

Tread slow around the old house
let the bones of this moment stir, set

see the irises turn – the lavender freeze
see how the grey gate waits for the touch

see below, still as a watchful nun,
the black cat under the observant sun.



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Windows On My Mother

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 | Comments Off on Windows On My Mother

Her hands hover over the fruit
She picks up a pear, half turns
from the bench, pauses,
puts the pear down.
Her hands hover over the fruit.

Click on her hands.

They held, they soothed, lifted,
stirred and mended, turned on and
off taps, switches, bedroom lights.
They stitched, folded, carried, chose
Turned pages of a million books
knew just what they were doing.

Her eyes wander over the fruit
Definition is dimmed
The shutter closing over the light

Click on her eyes

There are the Himalayas upright
like toys in a row in the shelf
there is an ocean she looked back across
here is a child, or a man, or a child,  or a man, or a child.
Words leap from pages,  from her eyes to her self
Everything she wanted and didn’t want to see.

She stands at the sink bench
Her back eighty three years straight
Now it looks ready for wings

Click on her back.

At ten years straight to hide from teasing
Fifteen  years straight to hide the scream
Twenty five years straight to keep
happiness in perspective.
Thirty five to bear burdens and babies
Fifty as a matter of principle
Sixty a matter of pride
Eighty three because that’s how
it’s always been — straight.


Her mind slides over the fruit, they
do not have names, they are
how they feel, they are their
weight, they are a bit of a problem.

Click on her mind.

The roads once led to cities
buildings are emptying fast
the lifts are crowded
streets without signposts
behind closed doors the
sound of conversation,

Her heart beats onwards
under the tidy pink shirt
under the mottle of skin
the bird hollow ribs

Click on her heart.

Click on her heart — there’s the crying child
Click on her heart — there’s the tight stored fury
Click on her lips — there’s her smile,

Click on my mother and she’ll disappear
into that tiny pinprick of light in
the centre of my screen
then that too will be gone
she will dance beyond all this, beyond
hands, sight, mind, heart and windows.


Sarah Delahunty

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Our Mother, Sewing

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 | Comments Off on Our Mother, Sewing

Our mother made all our clothes
do you remember
winceyette, sea island cotton, molleton
cloth, flocked nylon flocked nylon.
I got two because you
grew out of yours.
It was always winter. Soup
on the coal range, yellow electric light,
Lever Hit Parade, black treadle machine
with the jeweller’s motor,
Mum, hemming up the night time
with pins.
Me on the kitchen table
‘Stop spinning!’ Stop?
How could I stop. I was already
fence walking hop scotching
jay birding to school in my new
dress I was dancing the Prince
in the May competitions I was
knocking the boys for dead at
Foxton Beach I was strapless
white daisies and daring at
the Massey Ball
do you remember
how we pored through the pattern books
Simplicity – it took at least
all day and we helped with
the tacking and when the serials
were over we went to bed and there’d be
that strip of light under the door,
the machine still banging and whirring,
running on
and Mum
by the open range, eyes closing
stitching her heart into
tarlatan tutus, sailcloth shorts
and H-line gingham dresses
I buy my daughter’s clothes

Carol Markwell

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Sunday Morning

Posted on Jun 4, 2014 | Comments Off on Sunday Morning

On my front step
the dazzle of early morning sun
on my eyelids

not awake enough
to think –
mind full of dreams
images cling to the edge of memory
snatch at recognition

the valley wakes
dogs bark
lawn mowers
echo hammer blows
(indistinct) voices
cars drive past
on the road below

turn and look
see the watered silk of the harbour
pincushioned by feeding gulls.
not awake enough
to move

Sleep-heavy limbs curl
around waning dreams

The day can wait
A little longer.


Miriam Richardson

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Your Name

Posted on May 28, 2014 | Comments Off on Your Name

I wonder now I know your name
whether it was that far-away sound
always just beyond me,
why it sounds so right now.

It’s as if I heard it years ago,
& it kept me travelling.
I hear it now, & say it to myself,
as much in love as wonder.

I can hear your name
even when I have not said it.
I want it, & will myself to hear it,
the first, the last, the only thing.


Richard Langston


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The Yellow Gingham Chair

Posted on May 21, 2014 | Comments Off on The Yellow Gingham Chair

there’s an apple core going brown
by the books beside the empty glass
of red wine, sediment like blood spilled
near your empty chair where you
sat last evening reading and the sun
is a white line on the windowsill
so still, the bookshelves, our photos
deceased brother, father, mother,
sister still alive, enshrined, framed
the box of ashes we separated
to pretend half of your brother
was the cat we didn’t collect
from the vet for our grandchild.
Will we tell her, one day, that
box contains her great uncle
how we split his ashes in half
sealed both boxes and now
he’s in two rooms at one time
if asked to could we name
our sorrows guess their weight
truly know their shape?
the unlit lamp leans towards
the yellow gingham chair while
you’re not there – keeping score
Maggie Rainey-Smith
First published in the 4th Floor Journal, 2013 http://4thfloorjournal.co.nz/contributors/

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The Death Ride

Posted on May 21, 2014 | Comments Off on The Death Ride

He’s angry at the over-
ripe sun, the greedy way
she drinks it all in
points out pedestrians
on drips, the children
with dengue fever
she dares to laugh at the sight
of kids on bikes, bigger
than themselves, no light
eyes like longans
faces gleaming in the
jack-fruit scented evening
roads erupt in red
puddles ankle high
she wades, unafraid
he speaks of infection
in the stagnant waters
invoking caution
she sprays Deet
on her bare feet
and rolls her trousers
he complains about
the rain remaining
unmoved by monsoon
she secretly applauds
the tuk-tuk drivers
grooming their chariots
while he’s scornful
of their hammocks
and afternoon siestas
likes to beat them
down, haggle for deals
laughs that she’s loyal
tells her they don’t read
their maps, how much
ambition they lack
she uses the same driver
over and over
paying far too much
he shakes his head
in disbelief, annoyed
at her luminous naivety
she admires the ballet
required to hold a family
safely on a bike in traffic
he scoffs, he’s lived here
longer, feels love and hate
equally, contempt even
those babies boundless
their mothers side-saddle
father on phones
there’s a road toll he
points out – statistics
that joy she presumes
that glimpse of so-called
he’s sour now
That’s the Siem Reap death ride.


Maggie Rainey-Smith
First published in:

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Alice and the carrots

Posted on May 14, 2014 | Comments Off on Alice and the carrots

We three advance across the uneven field
to where Alice, the horse, with one white sock
and forehead blaze comes forward to take three carrots.

Two are experienced carrot-givers. I stand awed
by a mouth so removed from the grinding jaw
and that my carrot must be inserted.

A fool, Alice thinks. In need of training. Yet
my carrot is the fattest, biggest. And I turn back
and look at her, longest.


Elizabeth Smither

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Dear Camera (after Ben Cauchi)

Posted on May 7, 2014 | Comments Off on Dear Camera (after Ben Cauchi)

You go unseen in every shot,
a kestrel plummeting to the kill.

You call my soul from behind the door,
lure me to the window. In abandon

my image becomes clairvoyant.
Innocence shifts in the fall-

ing light, a feather is trapped
in tintype. A lever turns,

the minute hand revealing
depth beneath my fabric.

From the threshold I release a nest
of mice. Your clarity of talons

exposes me, a man with wings
of sepia. Call, dear camera


and we will hunt for flames
hovering high over the candle cups.


Sandi Sartorelli

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For the traveller

Posted on Apr 23, 2014 | Comments Off on For the traveller

The map, my friend, a mishmash of lines and cracks
uncharted territory where rivers bleed onyx seas
dark corners where worms weave secrets over secrets
fishyflashy lights bide their time – the hundredth
and one footstep feels a crack under the murmur of stones –

There, there is a garden where apple trees shelter a woman
called Lilith – purple lame – ticking boa of weeds – dreaming
hopes crossed this time Eve wakes her with a kiss – that
this time there is honey and passion fruit and an open rock
the sun of benevolence that shines only on lovers

Take the blindfold from your eyes or leave it there
those lines are set by ghosts who stepped over them
danced  sang songs  laughed  as they fell




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Tall Woman in a Frame

Posted on Apr 16, 2014 | Comments Off on Tall Woman in a Frame

Your eyes are narrowed to keep out the intrusive sun
your mouth a line closed against God, life, a stone
caught in your sensible black shoe

you married a widower twice your age, two children
to head the twelve you had, and two who lie in beds
of quiet inside the houses of the dead

behind the line of your mouth red slippers
dance under embroidered skirts, purple satin shawls
tease violins and somewhere a silver flute signals
platters of pomegranates, pears, their pale juices
lush on another’s lips — blue birds play with bees
leopards offer sweetmeats, pour wine in glasses
sunflowers turn their heads and bow as you stride
into high floating air — you climb that steep slope
stand arm raised: but here in the black wooden frame
you pose — behind you a trellis fence, beyond that the tree
under which you were born and where that line began
to carve itself into the newborn pink of your mouth.




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Posted on Apr 2, 2014 | Comments Off on Sonnet

‘They’ll let you down’ she says. ‘If there’s one thing
you’ll find out it’s that they don’t care a jot.’
I take another sip of gin. ‘What?’
I say. She’s plump, the way some are, feeding
on canapés and disappointment. ‘It
was funny cigarettes first then the car,
he never talks to me and that guitar’
s the only time I hear him cry. He hit
me once,’ she says, ‘Amanda’s gone and liv-
ing with a black – what kind of girl is that?
And Kenny never writes,’ she says, grown fat
with hoarded hurts, ‘just takes the shirts I give.’
‘Perhaps you never really knew them,’ I say.
‘You’ll learn alright,’ she says and turns away.

Carol Markwell

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Posted on Jan 1, 2014 | Comments Off on Medusa

Snakes and a man in the sidewinding light
between bumper and lamp-post, an instant
of gorgon’s delight as she turns his eye,
this man rings my belle. One bite
and he hardens, no resistance nor fear,
he falls into stiff-tipped enlightenment.
Sweet fucking serpent his parting breath,
for him the wreckage of knowing her
was worth an inconvenient death.
Down from her zenith she takes a toke,
nudges her stone man with a polite elbow,
topples him off the driver’s seat.
In the fast lane she’s doing a hundred and twenty.
The cop has his lights on and god she’s so ready.


Sandi Sartorelli

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Clock Tower

Posted on Dec 18, 2013 | 2 comments

O Palmerston North Hopwood Clock Tower
you have a new hat on
For fifty years you stood bareheaded, upright,
impervious to weather
You smiled down upon groups
of children, marching bands, civic dignitaries
once, the Queen came
You are a strange phallic finger
pointing towards the sky
At night, your light shines forth
a good deed in a naughty world
They have given you
another car park
to look at
Sometimes, I think you wear
a crown of thorns
In the early morning, when no-one
is looking, you droop a little
You are out of all proportion
O Palmerston North Hopwood Clock Tower
What is to be done with you!

Carol Markwell

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When the hat fits

Posted on Dec 11, 2013 | Comments Off on When the hat fits

Here is my closed mouth smiley hat —
comes in handy when shaking hands
with strangers.

This is my blues hat — it sings
lonely is another word, and pours
another glass of red.

There waits the old black one
patchwork of laughter, Lorca —
that long march to the park

I put this one on and magically —
gauze wings lift  a whistle of fantails
spiral  dance, and while Peggy sings

Is that all there is  Bogart and Bacall 
appear in the mirror, clapping 
I hold my head high  at an angle.





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