i wish there was more, too
there is no alternate universe. if there is one, i have already dreamed it away. i have dreamed the version where we sit by the harbour with the mountains in the distance, and i have dreamed the version where we are on the mountains and i kiss the frost off your lips and you trace my brow bone, over and over again.
reincarnation does not exist. all we can do is turn into dust in the summer, little spores that only appear when the light comes in through the windows. after the sun has set and it’s all gone dark, it almost feels like it could last, like i’m already lost in those ashes. but then i am opening my eyes and you are whispering, i have to go. come on, i’ll take you home. i’ll take you home.
i have found no river lethe. it doesn’t exist. if it did, and even if i drank and drank and drank, there would be no shooting star to take me away to a new life. i would just forget. i would lie there shaking on the ground, unable to sleep, grasping for strings of memory until i forget why i’m even reaching for them. and you would be on earth, wondering where i’d gone. eventually you’d forget too, but it would be a different kind of forgetting. yours would be a natural and soft watercolour, blurring red and blue and yellow together.
there is only this. and i keep asking in my head, over and over again, are you real? are you real? sometimes i wake up in the middle of the night, and i feel like i still have yet to wake up through another layer. like there’s another world above me in the clouds that i haven’t found yet, like i am stuck half-dreaming. are you real? i asked that to you once and you said yes, yes, yes. but later in the day, hours after you'd left, i found i couldn’t move my legs any more. there were cars coming everywhere and i whispered, please, please let me go. only when i was on grass again did it all feel true.
i swear, sometimes, i am on the edge of being able to fully wake up. when i’m flying home, i can feel that last layer pressing against my body. the plane takes off and as we climb up to higher altitudes, the water slowly evaporates out of my lungs and, all at once, it’s easier to breathe. it feels like i’ve finally reached the tip of the surface, reached the skin that has been covering a world far away. but there’s not enough force to break through, and i can tell that i am still sleeping because my throat stays so sore.
i imagine if i stayed there long enough, i would finally be able to wake up completely. if i took that plane and we kept on going up and up, the new air would be so potent that it’d seep into my body and leave cracks across my skin. the little cabin windows would break and the emptiness threaded through my blood would separate from my body, flood and spool out through the clouds. it would drift off into space, then wrap itself around pluto in that dark, dark expanse. and there, with those rocky mountains in the distance, i would finally find you, in all my favourite constellations.
Emma Shi is currently studying Classics and English at Victoria University of Wellington. She was the winner of the National Schools Poetry Award 2013 and her work has been published in Landfall, Poetry NZ and Starling.