Blood and Sand


A suitable drink for a coven
now we’ve stumbled upon it. 
The human menu was a knot
of fine strings, flavours 
we have had to tease out of her
as though finding an elixir
to soften the edges of this inherited 
mess is indeed magical. We are soothed 
by our unexpected discovery, this tulip 

of dusty red. Named not,
as we all assumed, for a woman
near water, but for a hero of blood sports,
of ending things in gore and glory.
We, conversely, are trying to keep
ourselves and others alive, are still
surprised to have made it so far as
to be unsure of the birthday
we are celebrating. 

Earlier, I’d been trying to explain myself to a man
I used to love, and still do in a wary
and more temperate way. To explain the hesitance
I’ve tangled myself in, dehydrating in a trap
of distorted electrical impulses. It always goes wrong,
the explanation goes off course like a river bursting its banks,
the vulnerability I held back too long.
What feels desperately true isn’t enough, 
just seeps away into the sand.  

I’ve tried to love in the way 
we are conditioned to believe
essential to human experience —
a measure of fullness, inherent goodness,
marking a person of sufficient quality.
But what are human qualities anyway? And where 
should I find them in myself? The top shelf
of my personality, the shaker that
no longer quite seals. 

The barman sparks a flint 
into our glasses. Will we taste 
the extinguished flame?
Vulnerability steamed off, leaving 
smoky fruit on the palate, a hint of fire, 
words pouring out, soaking 
into the silence of an unread message, 
a reaching out 
with the rags of your fine red flag.



I have swum in many seas
but it’s never enough.
There is always so much more water
rising to form new bodies. 

Lost inland seas, deserts, hexagonally tiled salt flats,
these are the places my heart quickens, here I see
the absent hand of gods, the chemical bones of suns,
matter pooled brine-like in all of us still living. 

If I could I would swim in the past, be a seed
in the salinity of the world. That ancient sea,
long buried or raised to dry, from which we grew
our first greed, and crawled out, and went forth to claim everything.


Morgan Bach is from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Her second book of poems, Middle Youth, is forthcoming with THWUP in 2023.