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Silver Branch series

Ankh Spice  - part I

Ankh Spice is a sea-obsessed poet from Aotearoa - New Zealand. Over the last two years, more than a hundred of his poems have been published internationally, and his work has been nominated eight times for the Pushcart Prize and/or Best of the Net. He was joint winner of The Poetry Archive’s WorldView competition in 2020 with his poem ‘New Cloth’. His reading of this poem is held in perpetuity in the Archive.

His work explores a range of themes close to his heart: environmental change, mental health, trauma, conscience, identity, queerness, physicality, mythology, natural science, spirituality, directed attention, language as magic, the unique landscape of Aotearoa, the persistent briefness of being human, and his second enduring love, the ocean.

Ankh’s debut full poetry collection, The Water Engine, was published by Femme Salvé Books (an imprint of Animal Heart Press) in November 2021:

Ankh also has editing roles at Icefloe Press and Barren Magazine.




Night slews in, slowdark inks the pond

Hine-nui-te-pō’s fingers stir giddy a constellation

of gentled waterbeetles


In twitching orbit, podfoil bodies surf

swells of silver equations, arrayed

antennae quivering for any edges to the endless


Even the wingless will fling themselves at new suns

jetting vapour at dawn

to escape this steady drowning

Originally published in Black Bough poetry's 

Apollo 11 'Lux Aeterna' edition

Southern Cross(ing)


To our bones, we’re sailors

your castoff ancestors and mine

greedy for the long horizons


Black water licks the hull, paua-tongue velvet

Sacks fill, the shucking knife flashes an arc, the sky stabbed

to welling jewels of broken nacre


And up there, the crux of it all, those four bullroaring stars

Haere mai, their pointer song a hook

tugging south the waka, laden with stories

of silver fish, and earth so rich for growing


Originally published in Black Bough poetry's 

Apollo 11 'Lux Aeterna' edition. Pushcart Prize nominated.


Old dustblood Pluto ring-a-rosies

with lumpen children - Nix and Styx,

twin rocky griefs

and frozen motes

who once-were-worlds

Lobed trench deep, the Planitia heart

pangs ion-fection red

at every trip and fall


Star-shot bodies

grind pretty sparks for wishing

and every earthkid asks to fly

Originally published in Black Bough poetry's 

Apollo 11 'Lux Aeterna' edition

Three moon haiku

Warmed eyepiece, and there

she looms - a round gasp, perfect

as our seeking urge


She rises early

wearing daybirds for lashes

shy of the bright sea


New struck, a coin held

aloft by fingers of cloud

mirroring the forge


Originally published in Black Bough Poetry's

Magnificent Desolation haiku edition

Fallback (throwback)

Clifftop rocks, sharped by southerlies

bruise my brave, bared winterings-over

A pretty wind insists my hair to kitestrings, toes scatter

small scree, bouncing lust for the fall


into the farbelow bay – once caldera, now again

eager cradle, rocking full of soft blanket-blue

call to the void, you said, but I hear only gulls, urging      oh, go, go

one    more     step       and gravity loosens      her fist


I unravel – apeswing, quickening shrew, nothing

but open gills               falling back to the breathing water


Originally published in Black Bough poetry's Divine Darkness


Half-done sun flares the water, light lancing clear depths

beneath an ape who swims these days for the joy of it

and a body’s old map uncreases, reading happy accidents aloud

Tuck proud thumbs, and hands recall easy the flipper in the bone

and that they ruddered for a living, five million years gone


And below, a starling rush of rays murmurs round a mountain

too sudden for their species’ long atlas, quaked up overnight,

five thousand years gone


And above, a shoal of swifts, arrows shot true

from their strings, zip the ghost-tree targets

of their hatching grove, felled overnight, five years gone


And that half-done sun is warm on anything like shoulders

for another 5 billion strokes or so, and the wind picks up cool now

and the clouds flickerframe —play at peaks

and valleys, beasts and branches—

then wisp gone.


Who doesn’t love a blank,




Originally published in Deep Time: Volume 1

Last chance to settle

On this long shard, we tiltwalk our builds and burials.

Even low ground here is eyrie, each rock the poke

of sea-hid volcanoes – every scaffold

is a drowning. Squid-haunted rebar, whale-groaned cellars, ghostwater

of the Eocene – most of an island is a body trailing below a flood.

Our small dry bones


are surface detail, the very oldest shallow-shook in hot iron sand, tapu

just seven scant centuries. The sea unsacreds us easily, all our smooths

and roughs, our clingings-on


to barely-unmolten peaks – wild teeth that cut bite early, fanging

the bright thin air above the sweet broad plate

of Gondwanamama, easier geographies still unweaned. And we,


we hungry water-skimmers, we skeletons-in-waiting – left her alone

straining barely above the aching blue. When finally we landed


so late, so heavy

on this last unfooted earth, how she trembled, now

how she holds her breath.



Originally published in Deep Time Volume 1



Glacial body

Under magnification, human bone alive

is skimmed aurora, and the fracture a cliff

of wind-cut ice. To snap up the blue hum

of a glacier, the human eye crackles focus

and there we lie, glow laid bare to the aeon-blade

flensed of our cushion dirt. The owner of this bone

will survive the moraine, fallen deep

to the chill dark of chemical sleep, while the rill of his pulse

quivers that brutal cliff and complicates the fix

and in the dark the ice too is moving to the wiles

of its own slow will, vitals steady.

We think it unconscious. We think it dead.

They say I am lucky to shiver awake, but luck would mean forgetting

old bones have no colour at all – lost airless, pressed lightless


Originally published in Deep Time Volume 1



Lost sanity of sun above, a squatting,

swollen rind of blood. Below, the furnace cooled


of rending fire we bridled, rode to death, and sank

that darkest horseman’s waste to depth.

What’s left of life, it creeps the ooze

at pressure, rolling once-upon-


an-eye, an old burst pearl, its glow rekindled by a spill.

When chains of monsters are all born

again, what chilly omens flood divine

from such a poisoned well.

Originally published in Deep Time Volume 2


Baltic amber


One bead, singing warmth – small palmed weight

gravid with 44 million years


My eye strokes the long blink of a slow life, tender

tastings of long-gone light

eaten into yourself by open-mouthed leaves

your blood, honey                    your feet, divining water

your crown, greened

by a young and frivolous sun


All the time in the world

to play a forest

down to its glow

Originally published in Deep Time Volume 2 

To be continued... in part II

Testimony of Ankh's debut collection - 'The Water Engine' with Femme Salvé Books in November 2021:

“In this comprehensive and mighty debut collection, The Water Engine, Ankh Spice stands shoulder to shoulder with poets, such as Les Murray, e.e. cummings, Hart Crane and Dylan Thomas in breaking and remaking language to transport the reader to visionary landscapes, mind-altering terrain and as-yet unarticulated, unchartered emotional territories. Many of the poems are elegies for the “wounded ape” in us all and there are truly haunting, if not harrowing, moments in this work, the “long voyages back to darkness” where mental health and life’s adversities are examined forensically, a disorder of the senses that is as disturbing as it is mesmerising. Though we are “ghosts in waiting”, heard as “a constant howl” from space, Spice dazzles us with the “quartz pricked glitter” of his vivid and imagery. The Water Engine deserves to be a seminal poetic text of our generation.”


Matthew M. C. Smith author of Origin: 21 Poems and editor, Black Bough Poetry. 


"I think I write poetry mostly as an act of translation. Language used flexibly is a broadcast from one world to another; from the private, internal landscape inside all our envelopes, out into a tangible, public space where the other humans are getting by. Or a multi-sensory snapshot of a moment or feeling taken by one brain, popped into a viewable album. The most beautiful part about that is that any viewer brings their own experiences and senses to bear when they’re regarding a work. In this way we get to deeply connect with that unknowable ‘darkened boxness’ of other human beings, via this frankly mad system of marks on a page or hoots from the mouth. I experience, I write, you read, you experience. Magic!"

Ankh Spice, November 2021.

Ankh's work has been published prolifically with Black Bough Poetry, so much so that we are serialising this feature in a part I and part II. Ankh has been a Guest Reader for the Deep Time anthology in 2020 with an outstanding contribution as Guest Reader and with his own work in those volumes.


Ankh has been host of #TopTweetTuesday twice and shortlisted and Highly Commended in the #BBmicro competitions. It's impossible to fully capture Ankh's contribution as a creative to the writing community and his outstanding support of other writers across the world, bringing energy, unity and the championing of rights in deeply challenging, uncertain times.

It's amazing to now see much of his work collected in one volume, The Water Engine with Femme Salvé Books . Read our testimony of the book at the bottom of this feature, which comes highly recommended!

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