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Sophie van Waardenberg

red brick, stamford street

at eight thirty eight when we skype our mothers
the sun has been down for days. and through cold lips
we talk all the way home about the supermarket fruit
how avocados from sainsbury’s are always ready to eat. we put our feet up bare
on top of heaters and press toes against toes through cardboard walls.

so maybe the sun has not been down for days we say
but this is my longest night. we use the words we hardly use except to our mothers
the words that pull our mouths back into shape. thank you. scared.
we whistle consonants through teeth and flick our local vowels home
and we breathe like the oceans we know
and when only our mothers are looking we say look, here

here is the chain ripped from the anchor. look, here
are the leaving-home bruises, here
is where it hurts like my puzzle head is missing a piece.
life is good, I am lucky, I am cold and my walls are bare.
we are cold without mothers though at our age we should keep ourselves warm.
put some socks on. look mum at my bottom teeth
tell me are they getting worse? can you see across this distance?

can you hear the girl in room a?
if I kissed my bedroom walls, everyone
in the whole building would feel how bad I am at kissing.
the eight spoilt girls in apartment sixty nine, we are not joking
say they all like their avocados wrong. one of them strips hers bare

all at once like she is peeling an egg and slices down to her fingers with a butter knife
and another only eats hers pepperblack with a button of sunrise yolk
and another leaves her knife out green and wet on the kitchen table.
she leaves her sesame seeds on the lino, portents shivering at the open door
saying look, here, I told you there were ghosts.

at night when we tell our mothers of these london avocados
twins cradled in dark forest cardboard
we realise how odd we all are, how unfurnished, how children.
finally we show them the gum knotted into the carpet of our recycled bedrooms.
how nobody has quite cared for us. how we are home soon and past mattering.

Sophie van Waardenberg studies English and History at the University of Auckland. Her work has appeared in Takahē, Starling, Ika, and The Spinoff.