Memories of a woman

(For Janet, Joan and Desperate Literature)

If I’m not careful all my half-hearts will spill empty on the floor and a high school art teacher will be left to make a Matisse mosaic out of them, explaining to all the teenage girls what will happen if you let it happen to you.


Where I grew up we did not have blue tennis courts and second lounges but everyone around us did. We lived just over the river on the line of the school zone which meant the sound of crystal glass and the depths of swimming pools in the summer were acutely familiar.


As soon as I could with whatever I had I flew. I flew further and further until my world turned dizzy and my body began to ache like the hull of a ship filling up with water and no island in sight. 


I learned to work sharp and fast; early in the mornings I would go down to the office in the dark and come home late. I’d work till 10, two, cancel plans, spend hours on the phone. I wore lanyards, stayed in hotels with pools and made presentations to men in sneakers with their feet up on the desk. I worked so much I didn’t have to think about anything else. I thought that was the ticket you paid to get the ride and I was wrong.


If you look at my body it’s a good body but it’s never good enough. I feel both guilty that it is and guilty that it isn’t. Mostly I feel guilty that I have been to school, seen and felt the opposite sides of luck, climbed mountains, can look ANYTHING up on the internet and still, some nights I look downwards from my high-angled head like a teacher at homework that has not been completed. Some nights I don’t - but those are hardly the ones you remember are they.


Joan and I get dinner and talk about the ways we go to lose our own vanity. She tells me of going to the desert with her sister in four-wheel drives, moving deeper into the sacred silence of the sand. The dirt is thin and red and heavy with the stories of a thousand people’s pasts, she elaborates.

When they leave, her sister turns to her and says in the wind so she can barely hear - the worst thing about this all is that I’ve stopped thinking about my hair for a whole week.


I have stood in the warm coat of good love and walked back out again. I have sailed under crisp moons to the furthest places of my imagination, swam in their seas. I have had meetings in boardrooms wearing shin-splinting heels to be taken seriously. I have walked hundreds of miles to know what strength feels like, to see if it meets my body halfway and forgives it for all its misgivings. 

I have done all of this but it’s gotten me nowhere. It’s my words and the fears that do the doing. They are all I’ve got. And when I am alone, so far from anything that could feel like comfort, it feels like I could have everything - if I let it.

- 2019

Cowboy weather

Go dancing with no partner.
Go sailing with no wind.

Throw into the night nothing but hot possibilities with strangers.
Strap a pair of boots to wheels and roll down the streets like you imagined you could when you had an office job and nothing else felt real. 

Sweat lemonade in a dark room with a slow fan, swimming only in your sleep.
Lie back in the dirt of the park with the stoners and ciggie butts so the siesta can steal your time.

Meet me in the afternoon in this cowboy weather -
the morning part of the evening when the sun starts to split but the heat’s still dripping.

We’ll sit on top the Seven Tits and skull tinto while the wild flowers grow out underneath us,
while the sky melts into this city you’ve loved forever but never seen before.

Walk home late to Lavapies,
throw pistols at the wind and forget everything for a second -
it’s dark now. Don’t let anything else keep you up.

Green grief

The day after I meet Joan for lunch the rainforest goes into its 16th day of burning. It keeps burning and there’s nothing we can do about it but there’s everything too.
Later that day I message her and say - that red line roaring into the forest - I can’t get it out of my mind. I can’t sleep at night.
The grief is real, she says. It’s important to feel it.

Yearnings from Peretola Airport

A place for my books to live
Someone to watch my things while I get water at the airport
A feeling that success isn’t a mirage or a long distance dream but an ocean you can make yourself and swim in
Not having to work on the floor of everywhere I put my bag down but some how still having enough money to live
Gluten free food widely available wherever I go (that’s not one of those god damned orange almond cake at 7.30 in the morning)
A tattoo sleeve I could trial for a month and give back at the end
Better French so I can be both a cool girl and continue my path to cultural enlightenment
A dog
A life infrastructure to house said dog
A European passport without a shotgun wedding to a Northern Hemispherian stranger
IRD to forget who I am
Someone here alongside me tonight to play this game with


I’m not one for travel poems because
they remind me

of when friends make you watch their home
videos from when they were a kid. Or

when they get back from holiday and
want to show you a PowerPoint

of all the places they’ve been.

I don’t care. I wasn’t there. Roll me in a rug
and throw me in the sea already.

But tonight I lay on a rooftop under a Moroccan sky,
the sun eating the sea until

everything became tangerine. Three men below
started up the kamenjah and began to sing.

Two cats stopped fighting and folded into my lap.
The woman in the small store I buy nectarines

from each day - she was there too. This sky, she
says, it’s like the days themselves -

Each time different. Each time the same.

Tamraght -
this shitty little town under the hill

with a beach break and pink light that vibrates
something special.

I guess you had to be there. I guess
you had to see it to believe it.

Annual Leave

You want a life that’s yours.
Something you can wrap your

arms around. Leave
from. Return to. Feel forever.

You want this life that makes
people say,

Wow nice life living -
I want it -

how’d you get

But the truth is
you already had it,

it was already there.
It’s the things you

didn’t even think of - your
keys that turn into locks,

the way they click open
your life each morning

and close it down at night.
Small things. Often invisible.

The dreams
you have swimming

around in your head and those
moments in between.

The buzzing of your phone
that says

someone is wanting you.
The way the light around you

moves. The way it
changes. The way

you do. The way
everything inevitably

does. Everything, all
of it, you have it all.

Sometimes it feels like it’s
everything. And

sometimes it feels like
nothing at all.