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Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

Claudia Jowitt and I would be best friends, I just know it

We’d sit in my nanny’s house

on the chipped mint lino and I’d watch her paint

drip toothpaste from piping bags

comb globs of meringue

into stiff pastel quiffs.

We’d lick our teeth and

laugh at all



I’d crush crab knees and cockle shells with the

rolling pin

until the room crackled like old records and

Claudia would make street maps out of lichen and hemp, and place a

pearl on every corner.

She’d catch my tongue with flypaper and reel me right in,

reach into my childhood and cover me with buttons,

coral blush,

ribbons like neurons,





At the turn of the 20th century, a dead girl was fished from the Seine. The story goes that the morgue attendant was so taken by her that he made a mask of her face. He caught the coy smile playing on her lips, her lids closed soft like she might just wake. He left her in the Paris Mortuary to see if anyone would claim her. No one did, and so he buried her in an unmarked grave. Her mask was smuggled from the mortuary and mass-produced as a souvenir trinket and nailed to the walls in the most fashionable of homes. Some say she threw herself into the river because she lost her child, or lover. Others say she was alive when they made the mask, that even people who throw themselves into rivers change their mind at the last minute and grimace, that decomposition happens quicker under water and she’s too smooth, too unswollen. They say she must have been an excellent model, young and beautiful and warm and dry, slowly breathing on the table. In 1960 the children’s toymaker Asmund Laerdal was commissioned to make a life-sized doll for use in the instruction of CPR. Laerdal used the girl from the Seine as the face of the dummy, and named her Anne. She has the most kissed face in the whole world. When you go to a first aid course, you are taught to shake her arm, gently but firmly. You are meant to use her name.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor was recently announced as the winner of the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition, and was the co-winner of the 2017 Monash Prize for Emerging Writers. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals, including Starling, Turbine|Kapohau, Landfall, Mayhem, Minarets and Mimicry. She writes thanks to the tireless support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.

Aimee-Jane was a part of the LitCrawl x Starling 2018 micro-residency programme, where six young writers were hosted by Wellington galleries over the weekend of 10-11 November to work on a current creative project. Aimee-Jane was in residence at Bartley + Co, where she worked on completing her first collection of poems. ‘Claudia Jowitt and I’ is an ekphrastic piece inspired by Claudia Jowitt’s Across Waters exhibition, which was on display at Bartley + Co during Aimee-Jane’s residency.