4 / jasmine, poppy, clematis montana

Hello! Happy Holidays!

I come to you now from a flat with high ceilings and rickety windows and what its location would determine to be an ample surrounding of trees. I’ve got two pieces of writing due to be published in the new year.

[My best-friend-and-grandmother is also currently on holiday and unreachable and I jokingly said I might have a manuscript for her to come back to, so I am tempted to launch into hyper-productivity as I did eighteen months ago—how has it been that long since June-July-August-2018?—and ensure her just that. I’ve got ideas. I’m reckless enough. Love and spite are equally wondrous motivators.]

In other news, here is a nugget of wisdom from my friend Kate:

THE MOTH CAN’T OFFER THE FLAME SHIT.

So let’s take that energy into 2020!

In the meantime, have a very tonally- and content-disparate newsletter—

6:30pm, 1 December, 2019

(In present tense:) I read Bill Manhire’s poem, ‘Erebus Voices’, posted on The Spinoff for the 40th anniversary of the disaster. I read it a few days late. I read the line—

And I am still a hand, a fingertip, a ring.

—and I think of the ring on my aunt’s hand, now in London, and how it was originally my great-grandmother’s, found in the wreckage a whole world away. I learn you can grieve, viscerally, for someone you’ve never met. That there is a state of loss which you can feel when you know it has been felt by the people responsible for you being born.

10:47am, 2 December, 2019

I am thinking about what Sylvia Plath wrote in The Bell Jar:

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

And I’m thinking about I am as exactly that, the beat of a heart, almost syncopated yet impossibly so, because it is the beat, the beat without which no other beat may exist—a flam, even, if I can be granted licence on the term. I’m thinking about I am as iamb, and the same beat, the same sound, the pun that links centuries of poets, and that the iamb—and iambic pentameter—as it has come to exist on a stage is so truly a sign of I am, I am, I am, I am, I am; that no actor is more present and vital than the one within arm’s reach of their audience. And I’m thinking about how, in Shakespeare, iambic verse is the language of lovers, and how love can return us to our most elevated and most innate state: bound to our lifeblood, to the beat of a heart.

8:22pm, 9 December, 2019

We as a collective are largely aware that three months ago, almost to the day, I wrote an article for The Niche. This article outlined, in meticulous detail, my conspiracy theory that Taylor Swift’s ‘The Archer’ was, in essence, a work of Virgilian fanfiction. We know this, we are aware of this, Tate cannot do things by halves and most definitely contains multitudes. Sure. However, I have another conspiracy theory about the Lover album, which I’ve kept close to my chest until now.

(I tweeted about it in passing; friends then demanded elaboration—

Dan. I WANT IT. WHERES MY BLOG POST IN FULL DETAIL

Sen. pardon

—I never back down from anything.)

So, without further ado, probably in less detail than Danielle would like (or that true tinfoil would ask of me): Hear Me Out, Taylor Swift Wrote ‘Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince’ About Hillary & Bill Clinton

First of all, yes, we know Taylor wrote this song about disillusionment with the current state (ha! pun!) of the ol’ U.S. of A. We know she’s releasing a Netflix doco entitled ‘Miss Americana’, and we know she’s meant to be seen in [Beanie Feldstein voice] the titular role. But! There are several crucial details which point specifically toward the Clintons, and I’ve already made my bed, so come settle into the absolutely platonic, middle-of-13-Going-on-30-esque slumber party. (I have cast myself as Jenna Rink—no, I do not take critique.)

  1. The first verse sets the scene, and doesn’t do much for these purposes, but does signal something of a resurgence in their relationship, which I guess aligns with the fact they’re still going strong after BC’s transgressions. Fun fact: LyricFind mistakenly writes ‘I’m crazier for you/ Then I was at sixteen’, so if anyone’s looking for a copyeditor, hmu!

  2. ‘American glory/ Faded before me’—speaks for itself.

  3. ‘I saw the scoreboard/ And ran for my life’—this relates to the continuous stream of voting results on election night, which (obviously) signalled the victory of the Republicans across all branches of government; HRC was famously seen walking in the woods in the aftermath of the election, which is what we’re using to contextualise the second lyric. (BC was also with her, which lends itself to the narrative Swift pushes in the song of the two of them against the world, standing by each other through adversity. I’m not gonna harp on about it because, like, newsletter. Corner me at a party and we’ll talk.)

  4. ‘No cameras catch my pageant smile’—what can I say! Media circus!

  5. ‘They whisper in the hallway/ “She’s a bad, bad girl”’—Nasty woman! Nasty woman! Nasty woman!

  6. ‘The whole school is rolling fake dice/ You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes’—this lyric puts forth an indictment of the faults of the electoral college, which allowed T***p to succeed over HRC, despite having received fewer votes over all.

  7. ‘We’re so sad/ We paint the town blue’—they’re sad ’cause HRC lost and they’re painting the town blue ’cause they’re Democrats! Come on, sheeple!

  8. ‘Voted most likely to/ Run away with you’—voting! Elections! ‘Most Likely To’ could even be the superlative for the popular vote! (Re: ‘Run away’, HRC was also touted by the press as having ‘runaway’ victories earlier in the election process.)

  9. ‘My team is losing/ Battered and bruising’—we know, Swift-Narrator-as-HRC; we were there, I had an exam the next day that I wasn’t studying for because I was watching the results come through via the Internet, it all sucked

  10. ‘I see the high fives/ Between the bad guys’—the GOP! Locker room talk! Bad!

  11. The rest of this verse is about the support and solace HRC found in BC, hopefully, following her defeat. I don’t know—and frankly don’t care—enough about their relationship to confirm or deny this.

  12. ‘American stories/ Burning before me’—I could tie this to many things, but I feel like it works just to leave it here.

  13. ‘I’m feeling helpless/ The damsels are depressed’—‘the damsels’ = anyone in their right mind; I don’t need to explain these things, we all lived them—

  14. ‘Boys will be boys, then/ Where are the wise men?/ Darling, I’m scared’—the GOP! Locker room talk! Bad! (Both Clintons have been referred to as ‘darlings’, either of Wall Street or the media.)

  15. ‘No cameras catch my muffled cries’—media circus! Composure! etc.

  16. The bridge—and, essentially, the rest of the song—are testament to the two of them staying together, which I feel ties more to the scandals of the BC presidency and his infidelity than anything else. [In this house, we support Monica Lewinsky, and are also very thrilled that Beanie Feldstein will be playing her in the upcoming series of ACS. But that’s beside the point!]

  17. Finally: ‘Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince’—HRC gets the moniker ‘Miss Americana’ from the fact of her running for President. The ‘Miss’ is, admittedly, somewhat infantilising, but we could construe it as a means by which she is emancipated from her husband, and recognised on her own merit, if we wanted to clutch straws so tight they imprint on our hands. (Which, hey! What else are we gonna do on a Monday night!) BC is ‘The Heartbreak Prince’ because, y’know, he was a heartthrob in his heyday, or whatever. Ask John Mulaney’s mother [see: The Comeback Kid] [Mega Tinfoil Moment: ‘The Comeback Kid’ and ‘The Heartbreak Prince’ share several linguistic characteristics (lotta –istics there, sorry about it):

    1. ‘The’

    2. The amount of syllables in both sobriquets

    3. The second syllable of the middle, disyllabic word begins with ‘b’ and finishes with ‘k’

    4. The assonance of the significant vowel ‘i’ in the third, monosyllabic word

    5. I dare you not to think ‘Miss Americana & The Comeback Kid’ next time you hear this song. I dare you!]

I rest my at-once-long-winded-and-heavily-condensed case.

[other undocumented occasions]

A few choice phrases, from various projects here and there:

  • Not speaking about things doesn’t mean they don’t exist

  • […] and there will be people I love who never know him; people who know me and somebody I share time with, perhaps, and somebody who comes from me, or several somebodies, and they will have him coursing through them and they will not know him. I know the answer is that they will know him in me, and I ought to take the qualities I want to emulate, and also I have his love with me always, because feelings like that are big enough to defy life and death and the universe, or I must believe they are, but that doesn’t stop this. None of that stops this.

  • ‘Wait—do you think “Ten-Seven” is a nickname for the police?’ / He looked confused. ‘Is it—not?’

And, to close out—

I feel I ought to take back what I said in my last newsletter, about longing as an incurable theme. It was true at the time, and, I suppose, is true still, yet I find I don’t want it anymore. I’m sick of living, by choice, unsatisfied. Of pointedly Not Reaching for that which is quite plainly not reaching back for me. (This simultaneously aligns and contrasts with my favourite Bonnie Tyler song.) I’m sick of letting the thing hurt me by default simply because it’s better than having the thing hurt me by choice—because at the end of the day it’s still hurt, isn’t it! And there is enough of that already. (Don’t get me started on the disappointment and unique confusion of when the thing does evolve to hurt you by choice.)

I need to box up the impulse to yearn, and instead barrel at full speed towards joy, for its goldenness, for its simplicity, for the fact it is wide open. For the art, for the experiences, for the people who give it. For the things that—as Jenny Slate mentions in Little Weirds—surprise me and meet me halfway. For the willingness. For the fact that, by virtue of my occupation, the vast majority of my time is spent exhausting myself for the baseline possibility of being chosen, and so to inflict that same internal combustion on any other facets of my life is at best inadvisable and at likeliest unhealthy. And I’ve found that if you say something with your whole chest, make yourself purposefully vulnerable, it can’t be used against you. So here I am, saying the thing with my whole chest.

Also, life is short! Smell some flowers! Get some sun on your face! Don’t eat paint, but, like, do whatever the spiritual version of that is! Be around people who make you laugh, and who show up for you, and show up for them right back!

We are all just reeling through the stars in tender, godly bodies, listening to music and feeling things. That’s precious. That’s lovely! Just—delight in it. And the flame was burning before the moth ever looked its way, and the flame will continue to burn. Be kind to yourself and also be kindling to yourself. An arbitrary New Thing is on the rise. Go in with [ba dum tss] 20/20 vision.

3 / bluebell, snapdragon, goldenrod

The past few weeks—and the ones just now cresting—feel held in the hazy duality of ends and beginnings: inciting incidents, opening paragraphs, exposition alongside denouements. (What an earnest opening sentence.) (I promise to tonally undercut myself at all points.)

October rounded itself out with a gloriously ambitious adaptation of Animal Farm, which I stage managed, and the submission of my final essay for a paper on psychoanalytical theory and British and Irish theatre. Both the play and the essay were feverish, packed tight, and completed quickly. Both were—thankfully, and, though one shouldn’t depend on external validation,—well-received.

November began with the submission of my dissertation, which, like Animal, concerned adaptation: particularly that by and of Shakespeare, alongside many a scholarly resource, featuring a quote by Ira Glass which I saw online last year and which my friend Harriett showed me—in video form—as we sat in her car outside my building in the wee hours of some forgotten weeknight. (I’m glad that happened, and that the stars aligned in the way they did, and that when I paraphrased the quote to my supervisor she said I ought to include it as an epigraph.) (It went on to become the bedrock of the dissertation itself.) (Thank you, Harriett, and thank you, Sophie.)

The adaptational bent has continued, and earlier this week I performed in a development showcase for a friend’s twist on Peter Ustinov’s The Love of Four Colonels. The day of the performance was miserable (weather-wise!), and then grew into summer. Everything about it turned warm. I saw friends, and sat amongst flowers, and felt what had for months been something akin to industrial bloom, instead, into potential. A clock stopped ticking. A canvas opened up.

But I’m conscious that this is meant to be a literary newsletter! You have not subscribed to read about my life a la the final monologue of a coming-of-age film.


September 28, 2019

From the novel, via the Notes app:

‘You can’t lose someone you never had.’

‘Bullshit,’ said [Redacted]. ‘Bullshit. You lose them over and over and over, forever, and don’t get to hold onto any of the good.’

I told her I thought it would hurt more to have the good and then be forced to live without it; to mourn the loss of something you knew that intimately. To look away from a life you had gazed so intently upon.

‘But then at least you had the thing. You had it, and it was great—or it wasn’t—and you know what it would’ve been like. You get to have had the joy, and at the same time you can stop constructing some image of what could have been in your head—which is bound to end up more romantic, more heartfelt, more perfect than what would’ve really happened.’

In 2017, a friend of mine (also a writer) was featured on a podcast. She discussed, amongst other things, ‘incurable’ themes. An incurable theme is a central subject or idea to which a writer will continuously return—the common thread through all of one’s oeuvre, that which cannot be suppressed. At first I thought mine was intimacy. A month or so on, I think it’s longing.


October/November

From the very recent first draft of a play:

L. Imagine that. Craving something but not knowing what it was. Just a listless ache.

M. I’d say I’ve felt that.

L. Really?

M. Well, isn’t that just what ambition is?

L. Ambition is a precise ache.

M. Yeah, but success is indeterminable.

L. Your dad’s definitely a capitalist.

M. What’s that got to do with anything?

L. Well, I mean, success is something you can define for yourself—and something you can allow to fulfil you. It shouldn’t hurt.

M. I didn’t say it hurt.

L. You called it an ache.

M. You called it an ache.

L. I defined an ache, and you called it ambition. Love’s an ache. Think about the last time you were in love—wasn’t that just a trauma that you chose?

The thing about longing—about yearning—is that it doesn’t have to be for a person. It can be for a circumstance, for an opportunity, for a life. It’s an emptiness and a fullness: a heaviness without respite. Which renders it melancholic, I guess. In order for longing to exist, it must go unassuaged.


I’d like to talk a bit more about longing, if you’ll let me. And, because the format’s mine—take a collection of lyrics:

It’s not enough to feel the lack (Lorde, ‘Ribs’)

It’s a lack, isn’t it? It’s a lack! You can’t long for that which you possess.

I need something bigger than the sky / Hold it in my arms and know it’s mine / Just how many stars will I need to hang around me / To finally call it heaven? (Mitski, ‘Remember My Name’)

This whole song! This whole song!

How will I know? (Don’t trust your feelings) (Whitney Houston, ‘How Will I Know?’)

This song brings to mind a fantastic piece by Hanif Abdurraqib for The Paris Review. It’s all about summer crushes, and longing, and this particular Whitney Houston anthem. It’s so good! It’s so, so good, team. (As is everything Abdurraqib writes!)

And last but for the purpose of absolutely not being least:

I can’t touch you / I wouldn’t if I could (boygenius, ‘Bite The Hand’)

I tend to take this lyric out of context, because it ties so beautifully to a poem that I currently can’t share with you (per submission guidelines).

What I will say is:

There’s an absolutely striking devastation in wanting something so! desperately! yet never, ever reaching out to grasp it. And knowing that you wouldn’t, even if you felt such a thing to be possible; even with the idea that what followed mightn’t be defeat, or rejection, or a complication. This is willingly depriving yourself of a desired object which has its anchor deep within you. Standing by, because there is nothing else to be done, but also understanding that—out of fear, or self-flagellation, or sheer, hopeless wanting—you would stand by even if forward propulsion were plausible. And the helplessness—but also the strength—in that! Clinging to it—and existing in the unsatisfied yearning state instead—because the anguish of it is, perhaps, safer. A familiar hollow fullness. The leaden uvula, and aching jaw, of all that goes unrequited.

There’s an Adam Phillips quote which popped up several times in lecture materials this past semester. It stopped my heart every time, yet also managed to fill it, in that it articulates the idea of longing—and its devastation, and that desperate want—with such precision. I’ll leave it here:

I’m now realising I gravitate towards music that would soundtrack the following:

THE LISTENER is standing at a party, either alone or feeling alone, and slightly miserable, and full of the desire to be somewhere else, even just on the other side of the room, with people they love but will never tell so. It’s dark and perhaps hopeless, and everything feels inconsequential but also momentous. There is a grandeur to the overarching instrumental. A crushing, liberating intensity. Both a quiet moment and a supercut.

(I promise I’m relatively fun to be around.)


There we have it, for now, I think.

Summer is here (in my corner of the planet) and the world (again, I am very conscious, in my corner) is good. There are months stretching out before me, full of beginnings and endings, and the incurable flowing through it all, ever-present, the red thread itself, perhaps. I hope my default state veers toward joy. I hope I don’t spoil things for myself by leaning into the melancholia that comes with care, and multiplicity, and the things we can say and the things we can feel. There is sunshine, and there is sunscreen. There will be poems, and there will be paintings. There is love, and there is longing which comes in tandem with that, and if all goes well the latter won’t impinge on the former. I guess time will tell. (And I guess that’s a cop-out.)

2 / calla lily, gladiolus, alstroemeria

Hello from September—there are a few of you now!

Since the last bouquet, I have written the following:

As a result, in this sophomore—much shorter—edition of the newsletter, I offer up a few pieces also penned and collected in this in-between time (but thus far unreleased).

A phrase from the Notes app of my battered iPhone:

[...] andwith a kind of mutual tendernesstaking your bloodied hand, pressing it to my mouth.

A line from a poem I’d love to share in full, but which I won’t, because I’d like to see it published (more traditionally) somewhere soon:

[ Who do you look for in a crowded room? ]

And a small passage from a novel I really oughtn’t be writing until my postgrad research is finished (however! I am a big believer in fingers in pies, and also in letting yourself be happy—even if it also kind of means being stressed):

‘I can’t believe we’re almost there,’ said [Redacted 1], reaching for the raspberry jam.

[Redacted 2]’s eyes followed the movement, followed her hands as she procured the open jar, and, as she settled again—her knife plunged into the sweet, bleeding heart of it—he flopped his head down on her shoulder, dark curls nestled in the curve of her neck. There was something so easy about the gesture, and so natural; an Impressionism to the image of it, to the two of them there. I imagined the artist’s rendition: thick licks of paint, each brushstroke lipped, the ink of his hair, and her eyelashes, the shared red of bitten mouths, and the soft warm beige of the cottage. Yet it was [Redacted 2]’s head on [Redacted 1]’s shoulder at the breakfast table, and part of me felt embarrassed to have seen it.

I’ve also got two further explorations of intimacy, or lack thereof, to share with you—because why not. They’re not related to each other, and they’re currently somewhat formless, in the sense that I don’t know if they’re monologues or if they’ll go into some larger prose project, but, hey! Take a gander!

This one’s about the richness of minute moments (and isn’t endorsing smoking):

[...] I didn’t smoke, but he did, and in the back of my mind I imagined the intimacy that might have been struck up if we’d had the vice in common. I imagined myself, cigarette between my lips, unlit but held taut, somehow substantial, and I imagined him offering to light it. He’d spark the lighter, hold it up, and cup the space between our faces to keep the breeze out. I’d lean forward, and so would he, his face half in shadow for the darkness of the evening but flickering amber for the flame between his mouth and mine. He’d smile. Easily—a pull of his lips. A no worries that preceded my thank you. And we wouldn’t have had to kiss. I’d have been happy with the cigarette and his hands and his smile. With the help he’d given me. With that mutual lean, and the eye contact, and the comfortable care I imagined feeling in it.

And the person being spoken about in this one probably wound up listening to my favourite Bonnie Raitt song:

[...] and, as much as I wished this weren’t the case, all I could think of when she touched me were the other pores those hands had passed over, the people she’d touched who weren’t me, and of the people she’d wanted, of how little I must have mattered and would eventually matter, or perhaps even more terrifyingly: how much. And I couldn’t help waiting for a day when somebody touched me and all that thought went silent, the space filled with some other hum that rendered it wholly inconsequential; a day when none of the past mattered, because there was the present, and because I was so certain the future I wanted would include this person whose hands had touched others but now touched me. But there, anchored, rooted in the moment, I wondered how being with this girl could have felt both so tender and so leaden. It had settled like a thick perfume; I’d let myself sink into it, but never quite to contentedness. Never to peace. 

I don’t know that we could have holidayed together. I don’t know that I could have talked enough to fill those silences; to play melody over the depth of her breathing. I wanted to love that breath, that sign of life, skating over my ear and neck; I wanted so desperately to relish in it. Instead I found I wished the fan would oscillate. She was so earnestly intense, and intensely earnest—yet I couldn’t quite figure out the prioritisation of it all. What did she use her hours for? What uses did she think there were for mine—what entitlement did she feel she had to them?

Did she touch me, I wondered, as a reminder? Did she touch me as if to say I am here—perhaps because she knew the warmth could come and go so quickly? I wondered if I was projecting again. Doing what I’d always done, but from so much closer and with much more skill. She didn’t see herself as I saw her. We were both blessed and cursed.

1 / lavender, anthurium, bird of paradise

December 2018

There’s a song on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships called “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”, which, despite now having gripped me in its entirety, immediately struck me for the lyric “But your death it won’t happen to you / It happens to your family and your friends”. The song as a whole speaks unambiguously: talking someone down from suicide, extending a hand to the depressed—but that singular lyric, emancipated from the others, mirrored a precise thought of my own. One I’d had standing at Bristol Temple Meads in July, waiting for a delayed train that would take me back to Cornwall.

I jotted it down in my Notes app—the thought—and, a few months later, worked it into my manuscript. I’m not sure if I can share the quote here, per submission guidelines, but I imagine it’s fine [as of August 2019, it is definitely fine]:

Indeed, I was conscious of the fact that my death—the echoed ringing bell of it—was, despite itself, not something that concerned me. My death would be something that happened—perhaps a rupture—to everyone else. (October, LXI)

Admittedly, it’s wordier than Healey. Requires more gymnastics. Certainly not conducive to lyric metre, and definitely a rough draft—but I still felt eerily heard in listening to somebody else voice the sentiment. Universality in the specific, etc. Everything is the same all the time forever. We can each play custom mouthpiece to a single human thought.

January 2019

Typed into Notes, as all things tend to be:

“I am so undeniably sick of sharing: sick of divulging and devising and designing for the sake of others; for the possibility of being understood—or, perhaps, more crucially, liked—and yet I am desperate to be heard. I crave the choice of when to speak, and about what subject, and in whichever manner I elect to, and simultaneously I crave an audience which will—when I make the aforementioned choices—witness me (or the voices I choose, on a wider scale, to amplify). The reality of the matter is that the choice is as much mine as it has always been. The denudation of my agency has been incomplete: a placebo. I am free to do whatever I like. Any cage is in part my own construction, and thus I may sack the city, too, by right. Let the walls fall and be built as I desire. As such I shall decipher if, when, and of what I wish to speak.”

February 2019

March 2019

Written as I sat at a circular wooden table in the crowded kitchen/dining room of a friend’s Ellerslie house:

& you’re so happy for your friend but you know nothing will ever be the same again & you never thought about how much things might change; never thought about how much you loved and appreciated the thing until it was over; until it had happened for the last time and that last time was long gone

& everyone else has a top priority and everyone else has an exciting new thing

April 2019

In April, I visited my family home briefly, and made a point to document my wait for boarding: “sat in the Domestic terminal of Auckland Airport with an overwhelming caramel slice and a truly disappointing hot chocolate”. I also finished writing the first draft of a full-length play (another first), which may never see the light of day, but which I believe in, and which includes this excerpt:

Lights up on the GALLERY EXHIBITION. Well lit, with bits of the kind of white light art galleries use that manages not to feel overtly industrial; the same art from GENIE’s STUDIO. There are two white benches, backless like uniform stone slabs, aligned behind the frames and downstage, equidistant from left and right, and equally separated from each other. It is distinctly empty of other people.

GENIE paces slightly as she speaks down the phone.

GENIE.       …Yeah, no, it is. It is, and I still can’t believe it. In my head I just thought I’d keep striving forever, along the periphery line, out of sight and mind and never quite getting to where I’d worked so hard to be. Which is ridiculous, because I’m so young, right? But at the same time you can’t help feeling ancient, and overdue. (Something over the phone) Exactly. And we never can quite predict what’ll be the thing that works out for us. But— listen, I’ve got to go – I’ve got to tell them it’s all fine. More than. (Something over the phone) I can’t wait for you to see it either. (Putting on a slight voice) Oh my god! (Back to normal) Alright – I’ll see you— bye – bye!

GENIE ends the call, looks around at her remaining art, takes a deep breath. This is a hugely cathartic moment: a quiet triumph, a quiet contentment, not for anybody but just for herself. Very emotional, very celebratory. A lingering moment just to take it all in.

May 2019

Morsels from May:

On rejection(s): “this is the year of them! the year i am committed to them running back to me, again and again, slick and supple and slow as they like, a wet heat and a deflated gut and an uphill trudge with a ball and chain, dragging your organs; i want to kiss them by the end”

On the minutiae of someone you love without definition, and admire unconditionally: the impression of glasses on the bridge of a nose

On overdue realisations: “need to let you go not for lack of love or for being hurt, but for lack of being proactively chosen, & chosen first, or chosen last & in a way that lasts, which perhaps in its absence is equal to a hurt, an ache & a longing both quenched & deepened—so i must step away from you”

June 2019

tired, capable, yearning; yearning almost like an ache, waking, sleepless and dreaming

July 2019

I started writing another play in July, which I may very well finish writing (but have put on hold for now), about two friends on a trip to the Coromandel. They’ve been separated geographically, and, it seems, even slightly by technology, and are reacquainting themselves with each other in a caravan in Kūaotunu. It’s a caravan they’ll end up stuck in, by road slips and by weather. It’s a play about love we don’t address, and how perhaps we should, even though now I’m wondering if sometimes we lose something by trying to turn it into what we think it ought to be. But that’s not the person who wrote the following excerpt talking; it’s the person she is six weeks on. So, without further ado:

W stacks the last of the food into the fridge. M begins to deposit room temperature snacks, tea, etc. into the cupboards.

W. You can –– Stop. You don’t have to be polite –– it’s –– it’s me.

M. I’m not being polite.

W. Oh, what, you’ve just ––

M. –– And from what I recall, you never were a fan of men who sat at Christmas.

W. You / remember that?

M. To be fair, it’s killed me since you brought it up. I notice it everywhere.

W. Are you one of them?

M. God, no –– I reckon Grandma would’ve killed me ––

W. Lots of things seem to kill you these days.

M. Hope you don’t.

W. Nah, I reckon you’re safe. At least while you’re stacking the shelves.

M. Told you I wasn’t a Christmas sitter.

W. (Back on task, thinking aloud as she works––) It requires at least a trio to work, I think. / If it’s only two people, like it is now, men might be more inclined to pull their weight. But if there’s a third party, they’ll defer it. Typically to a woman, regardless of her age.

M. How precise.

W. Only women seem attuned to the domestic labour of other women, or at least they’re the only ones with empathy enough to do anything about it. Even if we hate fulfilling the prophecy, and we hate the unspoken credence we’re giving to the inaction of the men in the room, it’s more important to lift the other woman’s weight. Men seem to think stacking their plates is proactive.

W realises she’s well and truly launched from a minor springboard.

W. Sorry. I ––

M. Don’t apologise. You’re right.

W. Thanks. I am that sometimes.

M. Often.

W. Do you remember Pattie Dowden’s sixtieth? She was / the librarian ––

M. Yeah –– she worked in the library. We were –– eleven?

W. Yeah.

M. What about it?

W. It was the first time I was seconded to the kitchen after a meal. We were sitting around the table, all of us –– me, and you, and our families and whoever else –– and my grandma had already gone –– you know she was friends with Pattie?

M. Yeah.

W. And anyway, she’d gone to help clean up, and we’re chatting away, happy as Larry, and my granddad says, “Louisa, deal with these plates, won’t you?”

M. No, I do remember that. I remember your face changed.

W. Yeah, it was rage. Rage and resignation and kinda like I’d closed up shop. Because I’d never been to Pattie’s; I didn’t know where anything was. And there was this sudden awareness –– awareness and understanding and some kind of innate signal –– that I’d been asked because it was a room full of men. And boys. And that was suddenly some role I had to fill, even in the eyes of a man who had read me books and cleaned up my scraped knees and was meant to respect me. And I wasn’t gonna make a fuss, was I, like –– it’s someone else’s house, and a room full of people. But he’d only asked me. I was the only one he was sending off.

W pauses, aware of how big this recount has become, perhaps insecure about it. M’s eyes are still on her; he’s still listening intently.

W. What I’m trying to say, is –– I knew you didn’t sit. Because you didn’t sit that time, you got right up with me, and tried to carry the heft of it even when I forced you to go halves with me, and you always got up when I did. Before I did, most times. And at the time I was very stubborn about it, and I didn’t want to reward you for basic human decency so I didn’t ever say anything. But. It meant a lot to me, that you did that. That you were like, “This isn’t [W]’s mess,” and tried to rally the boys.

She looks at him again.

W. Fuck –– we’ve been here all of five minutes and I’ve monologued at you over crockery. I’m sorry.

M. I’ve missed you.

W. You’re just saying that now.

M. No, I’m not. I’ve missed your brain –– all your anger and your eloquence.

I’ve been somewhat fixated recently on identifying people as those who sit at Christmas vs. those who don’t. I’m in the latter camp all the way, and will champion them. I like to think all those around me would do the same. (I’m wrong, of course. Wilfully, at first, I think, or else misdirected. But wrong no longer. The glasses have lost their tint.)

Also from July, some morsels (as borrowed from May):

On music (and the ineptitude of the medium to which I devote myself): “i am always trying to write towards the feeling that a swelling melody gives—a wordless beauty, and richness, and complete understanding, that cannot verbally exist; one which becomes diluted in the description of it”

On saying goodbye to a (very specific) skin lived in: “i am you & i love you & i was you, & you are always with me, & what was me in you & you in me has perhaps—i hope—left both parties stronger”

I felt as though I got very lucky with July. I could not have anticipated at the beginning of it where I would be at the end. I would have been happy with it. I am holding fast to that once-present happiness which is now past. There is still so much of that happiness. I can’t help seeing better now—but not in the sense that my July self was incorrect. She was right! She was right for what she knew, as I am right, now, in August, for what I know. Which leads us into:

August 2019

This month is wondrous and wearing me down. It’ll receive better treatment in hindsight, and any poems penned are too fresh to share. (Not for my own sake.)

Instead, take a line from the fifth play I’ve started writing in the past twelve months:

SILVIA. He’s got so much love to give, Julia. It blinds him.

Loading more posts…