heart as what my friends’ boyfriends all have going for them so nothing
heart as a children’s play where it sucks but everyone’s trying
heart as a slice of fog heart as a deserted beach heart as a never-ending rut
heart as the best version of me which is to say
all in my head
tell me again how we were
bright red light and how
my mother thought it was love while I
thought it was a head cold
bored during class I draw up the veins in my wrist with a finger
these roots keep me alive I think, hardly believing it
I am lined all the way through
like sunflowers or an atlas
dream me inside a whale’s mouth, flower seed or
even the dishwasher dream me anywhere
my sister forgives me for getting sunblock on her bag and in
the winter, when I lose her umbrella she will forgive me then too.
and this, this is the best kind of luck
being born into this kind of love
unable to stand ruining the poem with my dirty hands I do not
letting it rot away unwritten untouched
god, in my head the words are beautiful
but they aren’t real there
That summer was like cement, so thick and impossible to move through that even the dog was still. I had dreams where I marinated in a cold bath so often that I became a dead body – bloated and blue, my mother banging at the door demanding the bathroom.
When I told Daniel about these dreams he said I had heatstroke and I believed him, thinking it to be so medically serious that I called an ambulance. This, as one would imagine, worked out terribly for everyone involved. Our mother grounded Daniel for a week, which meant he wouldn’t talk to me for a week, which meant I melted in silence.
On days when I could hardly see straight, the heat all over me like water, I would lie on the ground shooing away the dog and the flies and imagine my body in faraway places. I was that awful age of old enough to be aware of things but not old enough to be doing them, and thought it certain I would never get any older.
You must understand, reduced to only the liquid parts of me, sweat swarming my body like ants, I thought doomsday had arrived. That the heat was sure to kill me. That that sun was for hours, for endless, for eating away at me.
But in the minute before the dark I could hardly believe how stupid I had been. How of course this would not kill me. This: the light fragmenting though the window, all dust particles in the air at a standstill. This: my body breathable in, the room soft again.
This: my hand outstretched, slivered by light, luminous.
Caroline Shepherd lives in Auckland but doesn’t plan to for long. She likes to write and sleep, and is rather good at the latter.