little charlton.

he openly cries at the end of Disney movies.
he revived all my dying, wrinkly, brown-crispy plants.
his eyes are so blue and transparent and vast, its like looking
into flying.

i like his warmth and his leanness
his bad jokes and good pie graphs,
how on the first night, in the back of the Uber
he took my hand and held it gently between his,
like we were old companions.

i love how at night he would fold me up in a tiny bundle and fit his limbs
and face and chest into the nooks and crannies of me,
how he swings from wise, vinegary old man to
petulant child to father to lover to me.

what is only pieces, doled out from here and there
from this boy and that boy, is all reconstructed
and the puzzle is getting clear, i am seeing an image.

when you were 6 years old, watching a stage play of Cinderella
sitting on the floor, eyes wide in the half-dark
‘can somebody love me?’ Cinderella sobs, ‘love me just the way i am?’
and amidst your tears, your little voice cries out –

‘yes, i will!’

shallow

more and more i am feeling the edges of me
dissolve and fade,

i hold my ear close to my stomach
hear the slow, silent seconds
the reflection of time lost
the fruitful moments dismissed with
a wave of a hand.

this kind of hunger draws
everything into its own space;
nor can we talk it all over,
have a calm rational discussion it seems

there is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic
about bones.

the birth of a star.

the word soulmates have a bad rap.

soulmates aren’t the ones who make you happiest, no.
they’re instead the ones who make you feel the most.

burning edges and scars and stars.
old pangs, bewilderment and beauty.
like you’ve been winded,
like you’ve surrendered.

jealousy and sweetness,
madness then laughter
a seesaw of delight, delicious
and dangerous doubt.

they hurl you into the abyss.
they lullaby you back in cotton wool.

they taste like hope.

terms and conditions.

watch out for power,
for its avalanche can bury you,
angry, hungry feet wanting more above you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain

watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out
to eat off your own leg, gauge out your own eyes,
shameless, rabid, and sad.

watch out for people,
because when the betraying comes,
(and it will come, from the side, from behind)
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

watch out for games, the actor’s part,
the speeches planned, rehearsed, unfelt
for they will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little child
bewildered, snotty,
needing a nap.

landed on mars.

male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies?
up on a pedestal or down on your knees,
it’s all a male fantasy:
that you’re strong enough to take what they dish out,
or else too weak to do anything about it.
even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy:
pretending you’re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own,
that you can wash your feet and comb your hair unconscious of the ever-present watcher
peering through the keyhole,
peering through the keyhole in your own head – if nowhere else.
you are a woman with a man inside watching a woman.
you are your own voyeur.

– m.a

countertop dancing.

the world is full of women
who’d tell me i should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. quit working so hard.
get yourself a child
stay home, make sourdough,
scrub the grout in the bathroom walls.
sell something, at a minimum wage,
instead of pulling 11 hours,
emails up to the neck, creatively
naked as a meat sandwich on a male-only butcher tray.
sell gloves, or something.
instead of what i do sell.

i look around here and realise
everyone here would actually understand.
the rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. but they go home
and look at themselves in the mirror, and realise they are
as bewildered as the next person.

some of my enemies
are tired just watching me, watching me
wall myself up
in my own body.
they’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.

Look — your feet are tiny, how do you walk?
you are so short, how did you get up there?
you think i’m not a goddess?
i am like a duck in water,
feet scurrying, a flurry, frantic, hidden
but look how i glide.

i am not done yet. i am not yet finished.

if you forget me.

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

. one of my favourites. pablo neruda.

maria cita.

i was a determined child.
inside busy shopping centers my mother would use me to remember where we parked the car,
or make our way back the way we came in
or to find my grandmother who’s fallen a step behind.

my favourite place was the National Bookstore. it was the biggest bookstore in the city.
i loved the colourful spines lined up neatly on the shelves
the quiet, carpeted aisles. the fact that
everyone, upon entry, just shut
the fuck up.

even then, at 8 or 9, my mother would say –
paulina. you have 20 minutes and 20 dollars. spend both wisely.
and saunter off to read Vogue magazines, or look at herself
in the mirror.

i would run to the Young Adult section (i was done with Picture Books at that stage),
grab the thickest books with the most vibrant covers
line them up on the beige, carpet floor
weigh one against the other in my hands, assess thickness
font sizes, the expressions on the characters’ faces on the front cover.

then i would run to mum with two in my hands, knees dimpled with carpet marks –
pull her face down so we could lock eyes –
woman. there’s a Buy One Get The Second for Half Price, ma
so even though i’m over budget, i am saving YOU
– pause –
money in the future.

AND! also,
i’ve given you my left over 6 minutes to decide.

she would snort and laugh,
red lipstick and teeth
tuck my hair behind my ear and buy me both.
we would catwalk to 1001 Ice Cream, get ourselves obscenely large scoops of everything,

buy shiny patent shoes, sing Like A Virgin
giggle mirthlessly in the car
when we drove past the school
that i was meant to be in that day.

five johnson

watch out for love
(unless it is true,
and every part of you says yes including the toes),
it will wrap you up like a mummy,
and your scream will be muffled,
and none of your running will end.

love? be it man. be it woman.
it must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your whole body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the water. to love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

special person,
if I were you I’d pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
a word-collaboration.
i do not believe all the words i have said,
except the important ones. i think of you like a young tree
with pasted-on leaves and know you’ll grow
and one day the real green thing will come.

but its a gamble.
i do not have green thumbs, you see.

let go. let go.
oh special person,
i want to break crystal glasses
in celebration,
for you,
for when your old leaves fall off
and you become magnificent.

but who has the patience
or the stomach or the gamble,
to watch a tree grow.

dancing in mud.

youve travelled for miles to sit quietly next to me
in someone else’s vintage couch
both of us damp and cold from today’s angry rain
dripping off our hair and your beautiful linen suit and my borrowed dress.

i have a pack of wet cigarettes,
i have a pack of broken memories.
you bring me expensive gifts
and the promise of a house overlooking the mediterranean sea

i could take the words you pronounce like ancient poetry
wear them like a patchwork apron.
i could stick them in the washer, the drier,
and maybe some of the loss that only i can see
would float off like dirt?
perhaps down the sink i could rinse up the what-ifs.

besides – what a bargain – no expensive phone calls
no lengthy trips on planes in the fog
no lonely stretches of time wondering and wandering
no time-difference and language barriers or
acquiring blessings from a new batch of strangers.
blessing us. blessing us.

am I to bless the lost you,
sitting here with my clumsy soul?
i realise Propaganda time is over.
i sit here on the spike of truth.
no one to blame except the slippery fish of memory
that slides in and out of my brain
no one to hate except the acute feel of my floral dress
brushing my body like a light that has gone out.

it recalls the kiss we invented, tongues like poems,
meeting at 23, returning at 34, inviting, causing a fever of need.
the time lost when you could’ve given me what i needed,
the perfect you, the head to toe –
all to be broken and laid carefully in a waterproof container
and hidden in the darkness under my bed.

i sit here in silence while you ask me in your musical words –
dance life with me. and i think –
i must disembowel this and then set the heart, the legs,
the potential of you,
and ignite, as I was once ignited,
and let it whirl into flame,
reaching the clearing dusk sky
making it dangerous with its red.