Sophie van Waardenberg
today we walked a long way to get home. you counted fences.
I cleaned the benches of flour and cut dough. look at us
all fork and fingers and not in love, just sharing spit.
I’ve never been good at spaghetti but you whistle it in.
how many years of us have touched these plaster walls, or
how many of my hairs have been caught in this drain?
once, when you could fit an adult grip around your elbow
we shaved our forearms in the bath, in bathing suits.
we taped each other up after. our wrinkled fingers shook.
that day we imagined that if there were a disaster,
some kind of car crash in my hemisphere or yours
we would live as sisters under the same lightbulb and share guinea pigs.
it never happened as cleanly as we wanted it to.
you remember that picture I showed you,
of the tree that started off as separate trunks
that grew together and apart, taller and taller?
maybe it wasn’t even a real thing.
we are a little bit like that, if you remember.
this plane is falling belly-first into california,
I am sure of it. pedestrians will sink knees to sidewalks
and pray to us that we do not hit them in our hurry
or else they will run like ants, dodge our heads, our hard bodies,
our limbs swords at such speed, as if we meant to fall
all along, right into the boulevards,
without going through border control.
the can of ginger beer I asked of the red scarf hostess
will become a new buoy off santa monica pier.
that is how the world works, I am sure of it,
cutting us up midway, so now I will take
my headphones off and hang them from your wrist
asleep under your chin, unlistening, bent shyly.
5th and 45th for five days
if a week is nothing then explain my miracles,
explain the woman mopping the airport bathroom who runs out
waving my phone until I realise it has fallen from me
and explain how I do not kiss her, how her halo is silent, explain
the windscreen wipers of each cab in time with the next,
concert-goers waving lit phones into the rain, explain
us walking singing shenandoah on the frozen avenue
though nothing so majestic is anything we are used to
and then explain the couple behind us
who thank us for our warbling in this foreign state,
explain the woman with long hair shopping-trolleyed to central park
rolling eyes into her throat because we will go back to melt in hotel rooms
while she resolves to statue, one of the modern series
explain the ducks, where they go when everything
is frozen like this, explain the knifelight early morning
walking choirlike into our boots onto the snow
explain chipotle where we order root beers and discover
instead cough medicine in large american doses,
explain how we, freshly unchildren, find our way to carnegie
and openmouth smile until the conductor appears,
and explain how we find our way back, how we see
taxi cabs glowing like sunflowers in every film
for thirty hours and yet cannot feel our feet
even when we uncrumple onto our damp isthmus
and flash-flood into cars and disperse. explain how
I count my teeth with my tongue for weeks because
they feel like the streets felt, numbered and mostly straight.
explain how after this nothing small is enough,
how this million and a half, sun-mourning, scatter as soon as dark hits
to unveil new asphalt undrunk of snow, and explain how this is not home.
Sophie van Waardenberg is a second year English and History student at the University of Auckland. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Takahē, Ika, Signals, and The Adroit Journal. Piano teachers and driving instructors alike have told her that she worries too much.