What the Future Looks Like

It was a perfect morning. The sky was singing its crisp blue melody, and the birds were swooping overhead, expending neat white pellets at the feet of the people who walked like they had nowhere in particular to go, because they didn’t, it was the beginning of summer, and the days were growing long, and the people were all so happy in a hazy, nostalgic kind of way.

Teresa woke early, made herself a pot of nectarine tea, and sat at the window of her flat. She stared out at the rows of houses, all narrow and tall with small white verandas out the front, where clean bed sheets expanded and contracted in the breeze. She listened to the humming sunshine, which in fact you could hear if you paid close enough attention, and said, ‘Hello Mr. Sun!’

‘Hello Teresa!’ The sun smiled back and stretched its beaming arms towards her. ‘Today is a perfect day!’

‘Yes,’ said Teresa, because the sun was right, everything was perfect — even the bees greeted the humans cheerfully as they passed, hovering around their shoulders, not to strike, but just to feel the goodness of their companionship.

‘I can’t believe it,’ said Teresa to the plants sitting patiently on the windowsill. ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better day on which to graduate!’ Her teeth shone white through a gap between her dark red lips.

Four years had passed. She was finally grown, finally almost free. She put on a green dress and her robe. She hung the hood over her shoulders, and pinned it into place. The gold satin shimmered. Everything was good and right. There was a stream of messages and notifications on her phone, and they were nothing but nice, encouraging, so many gestures of love. She took a moment and closed her eyes, thinking, this is the day I’ve been waiting for all my life.

 

A lonely fly buzzed its way into the room, admiring Teresa as she admired herself.

‘Hello!’ said the fly, ‘You look wonderful this morning. Would you care if I joined you on your walk?’

Teresa held out her hand and the fly landed neatly in her palm.

‘Of course, my friend. I would love the company.’

The fly flew to rest atop Teresa’s trencher as she went outside. Teresa chattered excitedly about the future, and the fly listened, feeling excited for her too. The past four years hadn’t been easy, but the girl had made it through and now she’d do such incredible things. The fly wasn’t the only one impressed. The houses tilted their roofs towards her as she passed and murmured their congratulations.

‘Thank you,’ said Teresa, ‘Thank you all so very much.’

 

There was a path laid out before her. She followed it faithfully, each bend and dip and curve, whistling as she walked, until suddenly a rat appeared.

‘Beware,’ the rat said, its voice unusually low for such an animal. ‘Today you must walk a new route.’

‘But I’ve always walked this way, every day for four years, and nothing bad has ever happened to me.’ Teresa took off her trencher to consult the fly, but it was gone.

‘Today isn’t a normal day, my dear girl.’ The rat appeared once more a few metres in front of her. ‘You must be wary of everything.’

Teresa felt a pressure growing in the back of her skull. She didn’t know what to do. She’d always walked the fastest way, but the rat’s warning frightened her.

She turned down the next street and found herself climbing a steep slope. Patches of sweat formed beneath her armpits and in the crevice of her lower spine. Her feet began to ache in the high heels she’d worn especially for the occasion. She bent down to remove them, but when they were off, she couldn’t pick them back up with her hands. Teresa slid her feet back in, but the shoes had shrunk tighter, and she deduced that if she took them off again they’d no longer fit at all. She kept both of them on and decided to bear it.

She kept walking up the slope until she came to an intersection. The traffic lights shone blue for go. She crossed diagonally, but when she made it halfway across, a car sped before her and she retreated from the shock.

‘Hurry!’ said the red man now, in short bursts, ‘Time is running low!’

She went to check her watch but realised that she didn’t have one. Her pockets were empty too, no phone. She ran forward again, dodging more cars and bicycles and telephone poles. The grasses were murmuring low, and she leaned in to hear.

‘The fountain, the fountain!’ they chanted. She saw a burst of light in the distance and knew where to go. Teresa charged up the hill, her shoes slicing into the backs of her heels. The satin cape hung heavy around her neck. It felt like she would choke. She lifted it from her neck and hung it from a nearby fence. Her trencher had fallen off somewhere. She didn’t have time to turn back and find it. The tarmac was yelling at her now to hurry, hurry, it was time.

‘Go faster!’ yelled a large dog from over the fence.

She sensed an urgency in the dog’s voice and broke into a run. She thought she had more time, but the sun was beginning to go down, and she hoped she hadn’t already missed it. Her feet were bleeding now and her toes had gone numb. Teresa tugged at the shoes but they wouldn’t come off. They’d somehow fused with her foot like a second layer of skin. She fell to her knees and began to crawl, grazing the heels of her palms as she went, the concrete tearing at her kneecaps.

‘You’ve made a terrible mistake,’ said the sun in a disappointed tone, before completely disappearing. The sky had turned red.

‘I only did what they all told me,’ Teresa cried, wiping the sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her dress — makeup smudging off onto the green fabric, her eyebrows smeared across her face.

 

When she got to the top of the hill, the field was swarming with wasps. She couldn’t see the fountain through the black cloud.

‘I made it,’ she said. ‘Now show me where to go.’

‘There is nowhere to go.’ The wasps said, flying around her in circles. ‘There was never anywhere to go.’

And then they laughed at her. They laughed and laughed and laughed.

About the author
Sinead Overbye is a recent MA graduate from the International Institute of Modern Letters. She writes magical realist works that evoke what it feels like to be a young woman navigating a turbulent world.
All Good

Are you even trying? Get up, all good. Go to work, $18 an hour, all good. Better than most. Clean up after someone else’s old people, all good all good. Ladies with eyes full of the fifties, asking you where your man is, asking you where your babies are. Are you even trying? Didn’t do a good enough job for them, do it again, all good. Are you even trying? Call your father on your lunch break, no answer, all good. Voicemails enough just to hear his tone, bush in the background, cars on a dirt road. Try and work on your reo in the break room. K-e-i-t-e-h-i-a-m-o-e-au. Glazed over, aue aue, all good. We’ll do it later. We’ll make time. Are you even trying? Go home late, no overtime pay, all good all good. It needed to be done, can’t leave the old ones in a mess. Go to town to buy some pants you’ve saved up for. Are you even trying? Get followed around the shop, man waiting outside the changing room. Hear him breathing against the curtain. Breath dripping down the plastic like a waterfall. Sigh slowly so he can’t hear you. A slow breath is quiet, a fast breath can kill you, all good all good. Didn’t want the pants anyway, they never fit right across the hips. Put them back on the rack, bag check, all good all good. Ruffling through your bag, hands on your wallet, hands on your tampons, eyes on your chest while it moves up and down. Are you even trying? Home time, kaputi mau? What does that mean? Never mind, all good all good. Are you even trying? Look after someone else’s kids, playing on iPads, waiting for dinner. $30 a night. All good all good. Singing in the kitchen. Nga iwi e, nga iwi e. They laugh at you. All good, all good, they’re just kids I guess. Little and pale and clean and squeeky. Are you even trying? Their father gives you a lift home, puts his hand on your thigh. The lightest touch, but heavier than any other you’ve had. Feels like a lizard crawling out of the underworld, moving in slow motion. Look out the window, moonlight on your arm’s pulling you pale. Pull your skirt down. Cotton elastane blend, no rips. Are you even trying? All good, all good. Drops you home, gives you $50 instead. He knows where you live now, all good all good. Go to bed without taking your makeup off, all good. You shouldn’t have worn it anyway, didn’t get you what you needed. Didn’t get you what you wanted. Are you even trying? Lie awake in bed, five degrees in here, put an extra blanket on all good all good. How many blankets do we need before we’ve been paid correctly. You are a small green pea under thousands upon thousands of wool blankets. They crush you warm. Let yourself breathe out. Imagine your Nana’s voice it’s ok to cry, let it out. See her hands pulling you into her, kneading you like bread. Pushing and pulling you back to your original shape. All good, all good. Cry with the lights off, go under the covers, don’t disturb people, all good all good. Are you even trying? Wait for tomorrow. It’ll be different, then, so they tell me.

About the author
Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu musician and writer. She has performed with artists such as Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots and Ariana Tikao. Her publishing history includes Landfall, Starling, Minarets, and Brief amongst other journals. She is currently working as a music therapist in Te Whanganui a Tara after completing a thesis on the use of taonga pūoro within mental health music therapy. Ruby is currently completing her first manuscript of poetry entitled ‘Toku Pāpā which explores how cultures is passed on through whakapapa despite all odds. She currently lives on an old riwai plantation that belonged to her tūpuna from Kati Mamoe. She sings with children every day and hopes that some day the children she sings with will be hers.
# Attempts at a Resolution in the Wreckage

Attempt #

watch manu swing
into bay salt
the splash
barely discernible
from flecks
white paint

 

Attempt #

there is power to ash as a metaphor                   but I just want us to win
for once and it only take one shot
they’re killing us with a gold chain
how much you bet it break before the skin does                  not much
and climbing a stairway of corpses                                        to god
but we could make a white christmas with their ashes
we just need the numbers and                                          one big
shotgun made                                                      of solidarity

 

Attempt #

tear up the lawn
for worms for crickets for wetā for huhu
to dance through
the new growth

 

Attempt #

Use the mechanisms of power, use the structures that power has created to fold them in on themselves. Get [insert political party here] into a position where resources can be redistributed. Make sure that the optics never give a hint of tyrant. Make sure the propaganda is on more often than it’s not. Debate empathy back into party politics. Continue to ignore history. They must be for the working class — it’s in the name!

Labour over the design of your posters until they melt right off the stick.

 

Attempt #

here is how we make everything better again                 sometimes the house is built wrong
take each plank of wood down                                 or better yet burn it
if the house don’t serve the people living in it                then what is the point?
we can’t use the master’s tools here                           we’ve got to make new ones
that which is born of the land                                 is the perfect antidote for that which
dominates it

 

Attempt #

view of broken arch
the big ben smote in two
greenwich means nothing now
my mokopuna sitting in the rubble of empire this slash and burn fiction become aspiration
become blueprint
would the more honest prediction be activist behind computer screen
while the USA dissolves behind a mushroom cloud
while the project of colonization becomes just fever dream of
the rich and powerful
i watch them move their shawl to shake off the dust
knowing they are truly free

 

Attempt #

                                                                         place rocks in my mouth
                                                                         and leave me to
                                                                         spit up an avalanche
                                                                         of stones
                                                                         my picture engraved onto every
                                                                         one
                                                                         my picture worn off by
                                                                         the blisters on my
                                                                         tongue

 

Attempt #

poor     whole        galaxies          through   the s i e v e                     what kind
universal
thoughts                             get stuck in the g r a t i n g
in the horse carcass longing of it

I will push a w hole population                   upstream to save the
cattle

to dream up a solution to not keeping the ground where
she wanna be

                 does it take that much self-control to want to save the world?

you couldn’t chalk                                                     it up to shareholders
or savages in jungles you cleared away
but what good is power when it does no good?

 

Attempt #

I’m feeling like shit today staying in bed
rubbing the raw end of a snotty nose on the duvet spread
will it dry in this damp house
will i die in this one bedroom unit

 

Attempt #

when it thinks in terms of violence / there is no evil here
just a race to design the biggest dollar sign over the largest mass grave
i repeat there is no evil here / cast a wig over the shoulder in front of the mirror
no just competing interests / just instructions on how to build ladders
made from walking/talking flesh

 

Attempt #

Marx in his analysis of class presents a rather dispassionate image of two groups that contradict each other by both existing at once

                 feather fluttering

The relationship between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is one defined by conflict and exploitation

                 how could it not

                 it grips the branch

Communism is the resolution of this contradiction by the bourgeoisie’s removal from power

                 imagine a bird being free to come and go from the nest they have built

 

Attempt #

                                           D R A W                              T O G E T H E R
                                                D R A W                      T O G E T H E R
                                                    D R A W               T O G E T H E R
                                                        D R A W        T O G E T H E R
                                                          D R A W   T O G E T H E R

                                                                   AFFIRM!

Attempt #

                 A guillotine rusts in the field / the sun reflects off the blade / the size of a human skull.

 

Attempt #

  1. pile up the table legs haul a makeshift person into being
    one with enough purposeless support to last a lifetime
    give it a sense of pride hand it paintbrushes and just enough
    white to colour itself privileged give it the hair that was stuck
    down the drain pulled up in long Cthulhu tendrils
    give it the fear of the other and destroy every single mirror
    disturb the surface of the water constantly we wouldn’t want it
    to see itself whole
  2. give it tools to write with to build with to make itself
    feel like it has a whole world to give
    one full of language
    full of saltwater and orange peels
    collapsed lungs and broken arms
    peeling bark and the whine of tired greyhounds
  3. then break it down over rocks scattered in the backyard
    the neighbourhood cats all screeching at each other
    in this whirlwind of bestial find its humanity dashed to
    bits

 

Attempt #

a scarecrow wearing a suit            is just a man wearing fear
is just a capitalist wearing a cheque          an emperor that never had to attempt clothing
there is no evil here                                        don’t go looking

 

Attempt #

TIE THE TIGHTEST KNOT              ONE THAT CAN’T BE
REPRODUCED                                                        ON PAPER
MAKE SURE IT HOLDS            EVERYTHING YOU HOLD
DEAR IN ITS SPECK OF                                                   GAP

 

Attempt #

the targets are really easy to identify
[the crown hits the floor with a brittle clang]
it’s the execution that requires all the work

 

Attempt #

d r a w       o n        t h e           p o w e r             o f            t h e            e a r t h
P           A          P          A          T          Ū          Ā          N        U         K       U
f e e l      h e r      i n     t h e    s o i l    t h e    g r a i n s    o f    h e r    b e i n g

d r a w        o n        t h e            p o w e r             o f             t h e             s k y
R                A                N               G              I               N               U             I
f e e l   h i m     i n    r a i n   t h i s   v e r t i c a l    s t r e a m   o f   s h a d o w

w h e n    t h e y    c o m e   t o g e t h e r   t h e y    s o l v e   a    m a s s i v e

C         O       N        T        R        A        D        I        C       T       I       O       N

 

Attempt #

there is power
in ash as a metaphor
so let us wear it on our bodies
and get to work

About the author
essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa | they/them/theirs) if they die before the end of the settler colonial nation state of NZ you owe them a revolution [their first book of poetry ransack out from VUP in 2019]
Princess Casino

You, my sweet, are dripping neon
from the cherry red walls of the princess casino
reducing every moment like cream swilling in a bowl,
flaming in brittle bird memory.

There I am,
banging my body against the ceiling,
flitting and losing my down,
losing arc of wing and the halcyon hour.

Come to the princess casino,
come for the fluorescent shower,
my sweet is down below, stretching his neck
to watch winter’s chaos parade in my throat

‘You look lovely tonight, darling’ his words shaped like warmth.
‘Thank you’ I say when what I mean is
            ‘I’m sorry’.

Sweet’s shoulders bobbing, the machine bells and the coins collecting, soundtrack of voices dangling, the kiss of it I would lose, the kiss dangling and left to wound, the sweetness that drips from lovers’ chins, the foreheads pressed tightly in twos and words that dissolve terraces and dining room tables across cities.

Something pulls on the cherry red walls
and I do mean red -something heavy-
I will later tell it as a scene from a film I can no longer recall the name of.

Noise envelops like a wave.
I lose nearly all of it in the end.

The image laid bare on its back
the dutiful consumption and fatal bleeding out – that is to say –
the real thing is departed and my head turns but
only in slumber.

My sweet, nothing arrived guaranteed.

Time in throat and galloping now,
my damning metaphors come to claim
all I had gathered in hand, unfurling my fingers
and I begin to cry.

‘Let’s get you home’.

You, beneath the strips of light,
looking up and smiling at me.

 

About the author
Danielle is a poet and short story writer from Auckland, New Zealand. Her work ruminates on ideas of youth, family, romance and loss. Currently based in Paris, she is working on her first poetry collection.
Debris

 

DEBRIS

All you have to do is
squeeze
the littlest bit
pressure mounding in your fingertips.
The shell cracks open. Shatters,
glass into flesh
bone between teeth
salvage what you can.
Everyone you know lying scattered
ghosts from a past life.
There is a genocide on your kitchen counter
paw through the debris.
About the author
Pōneke based artist-poet-teacher. Co-editor and production manager of art/poetry zine Salty. Maisie also has work published or forthcoming by Sweet Mammalian, A Fine Line magazine, Flash Frontier, Overcommunicate, Anthropozine, ecARTnz and Salty.
Body, You Let Me Down

You closed like a tent,
I never heard the zip,
all darkness and humidity
as I waited for the shadow of the bear –
the one that comes down slowly to sniff;
its monstrous outline,
its nudge through nylon
at that useless shape.

Body,
where did you go you coward?
beneath the parapet,
the lip of the trench
all warm and silent, playing dead
is that what you thought,
to escape?

You cannot fool an animal,
they navigate by
the magnetism of the earth,
they see things we cannot;
in the dark we are hot shapes
beating out our pulse,
however still you keep your arms
and try to rein in your breath.

Body,
you let me down.

Body, I wanted you to fly.
Once you took me in an astral way
off a canyon
and we soared
and we were the eagle
and we were the largest bird
and we cast such a shadow
and we were together there feeling all the goodness
of the world –
I woke but we were left with it
in the fingers and the heart, in the barrel of the chest
and thread through our hair,
for hours we carried it.

You had my mouth,

why did you not scream
when the tent came down,
why did you not use our mouth,
why could you not open it,
why did you not make a sound?

You cut our vocal cords.

Now you cannot do anything but scream,
if the light from the window is not enough
or something resonates on TV,
you wake me into sweat and violence,
so blood-curdling
I’m sure all the neighbours wake;
lights go on,
and some may be sympathetic,
a pang to their own secrets buried.

Sometimes I stand and look at the lights in the valley,
how long they take to snuff out,
the poor children there wearing giant’s bodies
that betrayed them.

 

(first published in Body, Remember, Eyewear Publishing, London)

About the author
Wes Lee lives in Paekakariki. She has two collections of poetry, Shooting Gallery (Steele Roberts, Wellington, 2016), and a pamphlet Body, Remember (Eyewear Publishing, London, 2017). Her work has appeared in journals such as Banshee, Turbine, Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, Going Down Swinging, The Stinging Fly, Poetry London, The London Magazine, Westerly, Hue & Cry, among others. Most recently she was selected by American poet Eileen Myles as a finalist for The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018, and awarded the Poetry New Zealand Prize 2019 by Massey University Press.
Two Poems

VITRUVIAN

CW: body horror/potential dysphoria triggers

Accompaniments: Pretending by SOPHIE, I Am Made of Chalk by Crystal Castles

Break the body
Extend the limbs to the point of cracking
Disenchant them from their sockets
And rearrange
Remove the breasts
Narrow the pelvis
Let the cunt stay
But fix that good for nothing clitoris
Tease the sinew
Make the marrow boil
Scrape away the skin
Curl inward, sinner
Remember moments of conversation and be unable to place them
Be your grandmother, locked in a hospital cage of disproportionate fluids
Be, in London, a bird with bloody wings who cannot fly
Be unhappy
Be unwell

 

 

ASTLEY

Down in Otago
In the nineteen-fifties
You felt scared and alone

A while ago I visited you
Out in the garden
One of the other women
Came up and started talking

—have you seen
—the girl
—yes
—about her
—yes

Structures are shifting
Minds are chattering
A triangulation
Is occurring

Because I am the girl
Though the woman does not know
And I am her
And I am you

Along with the baked muffins and sharing puzzles and odd moments of praise
long ago
You gave me a gift
(It would be rude to disregard it)

 You do not understand—

Why am I in this place?
Stupid
Silly
Useless
Burden

It’s never been easy for you
And now it is harder
Your skin is thinner
Your heart is weaker
They don’t let you drink too much water

 In sixty years I am you

 –

There, during the visit
The garden is bright
The nurses are smiling
My father is angry
And you and I are frail

About the author
Erin is a History Honours student at the University of Auckland (everyone's favourite establishment). She writes when she can find the energy to do so, which is hardly ever, and is interested (both academically and personally) in identity formation, queer stories and popular culture.
Two Poems

VAMPIRES

Asians are vampires
We don’t age
We don’t sweat
We are better at everything

We wear slippers in the house
To remain quiet as death
To each other’s sensitive bat like ears

We cover our sofas with plastic sheets
To protect our 16th century Tang dynasty furniture against the blood of our victims We aren’t allowed out in the sun
(colourism? Nah, it’s a vampire thing)
We never see reflections of ourselves
in the media
And our favourite colour is
Red

I always wondered why
My mother told me
When I was a kid
Don’t worry if people make fun of you
They’ll all die before you and you’ll live forever as a superior race

But now I know

Why we follow the lunar calendar Why I have so many cousins
Why our parents never hugged us because they are dead inside Literally

Asians are vampires
Patiently waiting for racism to die

 

 

I’M TRYING TO IMPRESS YOU

I’m trying to impress you
I’m looking at the menu
and I don’t pick the pork and chives dumplings I pick the spicy pickled tofu
And you bet I’ll eat it with my chopsticks
held at the long end
While holding back tears
Because the restaurant I picked
Was one without an english translation
And one without english level spices

I’m googling how to say
Xie Xie to the waiters
I’m patting a watermelon and pretending to know the language it translates into
That tells me it tastes good
I’m wearing lucky red underwear
I’m drinking bubble tea and calling it Boba
I’m listening to Kpop unironically

I’m asking you

What was your childhood like
What’s your favourite movie
What brand of soy sauce do you use
Do you have any siblings
What do you do for work
What did you have for breakfast
Dogs or cats
Mayo or Mustard
And not
Where are you from
I’m trying to impress you
My favourite shows are Killing Eve, Fresh off the Boat and that one terrible season of Selfie starring John Cho which was cancelled and should be buried forever
But still made the top three on my list
Because I’m trying
to impress you

I’m calling on my ancestors
I’m calling my dad to listen to the watermelon for me
I’m calling on every fibre of my 50% Asian being to flood itself to the surface and become the beacon of relatability you might be attracted to
I’m rolling up the yoga mat
And rolling out plastic sheets to cover my sofa with
I’m muting Katy, Taylor and Gaga
And blasting Dumbfounded, 88rising and BTS
I’m throwing out my vacuum cleaner and sweeping my whiteness under the rug
with an $8 broom from Mercury Plaza
Harry Potter is dead to me
But I’m stanning Cho Chang
I’m twisting my bones into the shape of a fortune cookie
Crack me open and read my wokeness
on a transparent strip of rice paper
I’m stretching my tongue until I can pluck it like an erhu
I’m growing my hair into a jet black net net to catch
the Asianness I spent a lifetime filtering out into nothing
to catch every Chinese word I purposefully forgot
to catch
you

Then

you order
the pork dumplings And a coke zero vanilla And ask for a fork
And
I am not
impressed.

About the author
Chye-Ling Huang is a Chinese-Pākehā director, writer and actress, and co-founder (in 2013 with James Roque) of Proudly Asian Theatre Company (PAT), which is dedicated to showcasing and empowering Asian storytellers in Aotearoa New Zealand. PAT’s productions include Lantern, Roots, the New Zealand premiere of FOB, and her own original scripts Call of the Sparrows and Orientation. Chye-Ling is the director of Asian Men Talk About Sex, a Loading Docs short documentary, as well as Like Sex, Nathan Joe’s award-winning B425 play. Through PAT, she runs a series of monthly play readings called Fresh off the Page which showcases Asian scripts, directors and actors, and provides mentorship with the NZ Film Commission.