The Mother of Publishing

Odessa says she likes my scarf and then because it’s long

she compares it to a scarf a celebrity named Zaza, at least phonetically, wore.

She does this because phonetic Zaza allegedly wore long scarves or

at least this one time, because it got caught in her scooter and she tragically

died. I have no idea who Zaza or Zarzarh or Cszarsza is, but I don’t want to

look dumb in front of Odessa, so I laugh and say

‘I’ll wind it ‘round my neck when I hop on an e-scooter’

and am instantly embarrassed because I don’t want to be associated with e-scooters


I’ve only been on one once anyway …


I felt like a pebble skimming …


I hooned it down Tasman but …


they’re not very cool and I want Odessa to think I’m cool …

but it’s too late, because a cool person wouldn’t take e-scooters that seriously.


I don’t really hold a firm stance against e-scooters,

I just think they’re kind of annoying, and ugly,

unlike Odessa, who flits around like a grey warbler,

landing lightly yet meaningfully on conversations about munken paper,

one hand pushing back a short cut of hair

until it turns into a nest in the spring.


Her eyes are blue like my scarf,

the one I definitely won’t be wearing on an e-scooter …

unless it’s raining and I have to be somewhere real quick …

and there’s no credit left on my Snapper …

or the bus is twenty minutes away …


… but a cool person wouldn’t feel the need to explain that … a cool

person … named …


I tried to Google Sssasah or Zarhsa but I couldn’t find the reference.

When I typed ‘zaza scarf scooter death’ I found lots of articles except the metadata said:

‘Missing: zaza’

and ‘Missing: zaza scarf’.



I’ve seen Space Jam but I don’t get basketball

I’m dating a poet.

He’s also a basketballer, but he never writes about sports.


On the court he’s blue and white,

a rip in the ocean,

froth, the meeting of, or the peaks when whisking …


egg whites … for the cake we snack on

while hanging one-liners from the day to dry

on the horizon.


We talked about fisheries on the drive over

and how there have been many conflicts, disputes, spats between countries

over something no-one owns,

and I wanted him to place his hand on my thigh,

but he doesn’t like being possessive

the way I do.


I take a book when I go to his games.

He finds this offensive but I don’t see what the big deal is.

I still watch him


as he wipes the soles of his shoes with the palm

of his hand to remove the dirt and as he throws

the ball down the sand-coloured shine and as he jumps up high

to intercept, get in the middle of, demand full attention of


which wouldn’t happen off the court.


I don’t know why I’m picking at my lips …


The siren cries like seagulls at the bay

and blue and white singlets disperse, leaving a low tide …


A lobster will rip the muscles of its throat, claws and anus to fit

inside a new shell,

but it probably doesn’t hurt and


he only dates vegetarians …



Living with a boy

There are things I never knew I needed,

like butter, soft and sweet on the knife,

melting into hot toast …


validation from someone else’s mum


or two cups on the bedside table

and the dim sound of NFL highlights as I sink

into the pillow to dream of … him still loving me after I commit a murder …




He wants us to get dewormed ‘cause we eat so much

but I think we just eat a lot …


When I took too much ketamine I shat

violently, and when I told him about it he said

Oh, I haven’t heard of that side effect and I said

Oh, maybe it was the discounted surimi

and we made love, our hair smelling like a house party.


We still haven’t tried anal.


His YouTube ads have changed to fart-proof underwear

for women, and pregnancy tests.

Mine is still Grammarly.


Sometimes when he’s spooning me I fart

and he says On me, quietly and matter-of-factly,

still holding me close …


It’s all I had

I smelt like Thai food when I joined the cult. My Chucks were braising my feet in the 33-degree heat and I was just too tired to hesitate.

I had to fill out a form. I couldn’t remember my address. I gave 20,000 won. Honestly, I said. They pressed me like an iron but my wallet was already flat. Shaking their heads they said, It won’t work as well. God appreciates a good feast but all you can afford is a light snack. Well, it’s hard to come prepared when the process is a secret. I wrote three wishes and wished I hadn’t come.

I hated working in that restaurant. I’m never right for the right place. I can’t stand the heat.

When I first met her, in the apartment on the road with all the kimchi pots, I was so excited to have made a friend. I said,
엄마 is dying and all she wants is to lie on the beach. I said, but she lived in New Zealand for twenty years and not once did she go for a swim. She listened to me talk, swirling the ice in her tea.

The women dressed me in a traditional gown and plaited my hair. It was nice to be touched without feeling rushed. The men chanted as I kowtowed, candle wax dripping onto the table as the leader burnt the piece of parchment with my name and my wishes. My knees rubbed raw, I remembered kneeling by the sparrow we’d buried in our garden. We’d tried to make its death more significant than it was. I remembered it was over by dinnertime.

She said it would save 엄마. I’ve never been very assertive.

I lost track of time. I was dripping in sweat and couldn’t stand up.



NOTE: a version of ‘It’s all I had’ was previously published in Landfall.