The paper curtains round the bed are blue
I sit, leg cocked, and sip the glass of water
you told the nurse was yours. Asleep your arms
are heavy sand, still curled to hold
the shape of where I was. I face
away; set glass down. You’ll be fine.
At 3 am a stranger says ‘She’s fine
to go’. We practice walking round the ward. The blue-
clad nurse on desk ignores us, face
made pale by her screen. Outside, dirty water
flattens papers to the road. You hold
me loose, uncertain what your arms
are for. Something inside me arms
itself. A low hum, strong, fine
and long-sustained, the way you hold
a note. You speak in repetitions, like a blues
singer with a voice as slow as water
rolling through the same progressions, face
tilted and smooth. ‘It wears my face;
it isn’t me.’ I know. Step over water
running down the pavement, arms
loose and flapping and stagger in the night’s fine
drizzle for the bus driver in the blue
hat to take us home. I hold
you upright on the seat. My skin feels rigid, like the hold
of ships that bear through storms. I face
rain through the window, see your sleepy blue-
sky smile. Like a ship’s captain, arm
myself. Have fathomed how fine
weather slips and storms come boiling over water.
You want a bath. You lie flat underwater,
one foot up for me to count how long you hold
your breath. ‘No drowning!’ (Still I’m anxious – fine
intestine-probing fingers til your face
breaks surface, laughing.) You raise exhausted arms
in glee. The sky, for now, is blue.
We are in a paper boat above deep water. Face
me now; hold me in your arms; be held. We are
fine. This season is stormy; the sky may stay blue.
Zoe Higgins works in theatre and lives in Wellington.