come float with us

welcome to this house
it is now your home
please take off your shoes
and throw them in the bin

in this house we only wear jandals
or gumboots
make sure you shake the sand from your jandals
and scrape the mud from your gumboots

scrape the mud from your skin too
if it doesn’t come free
scrub at it with insistent history lessons of a peaceful treaty
and comments about going back to where you came from

come inside
but don’t breathe too much
there isn’t enough space for you
except on our diversity days
twice a year
then you may inhale all the oxygen you want

feel free to hang some of your fabric from the letterbox
we like other houses in the street to see all the different colours we have
but don’t hang it in the house
leave it outside

welcome to this cloud
a haven for you to float upon
you’re very welcome here
we welcome everyone
anyone
even people like you

 

About the author
Rhegan Tu’akoi identifies as a Tongan Kiwi and is currently doing her Honours in English. Words have always danced around her mind, but she only ever meant to write for a password-protected document
girls don’t play drums, anyway

it’s 1983.
karen carpenter raises her spindle-arm high
inside crimson chiffon, crooning
‘wait a minute, wait a minute!’
but the postman will do nothing;
for he stole her vocal chords,
bound her drumming arms,
and extracted her honey-voice
to pad his loneliness.

in 1975, she walked
through a lens flare,
floated over a hazy garden;
translucent deity of video effects,
overlaying heady poppies,
singing soporific concoctions;
strolling across a crimson bridge in flared jeans.
richard was there too, I think
it might have all been a dream.

in 1976, she sung with her arms.
tapped out transcendental rhythms
across eleven neon drum sets,
laid semi-circular on lurid platforms—
first television special, the carpenters, she was
a lightning streak of sound
but john denver was there, too,
satirical, scripted, saying:
‘girls don’t play drums, anyway!’

by 1981, the world wanted to know
where she had been, and richard,
for five long years.
against a peach chat-show couch, ornamental plant,
had she suffered ‘the slimmer’s disease: anorexia nervosa?’ no—
was only ‘pooped,’ she said, rolled her eyes
way back into a recent skull until
the camera cut. and richard said:
‘maybe it’s better to take a pass on the whole thing.’ 

so in 1981, karen carpenter stood
singing angelic, face overcast with perm;
a tiny face, receding,
its ember eyes glowing still,
high up on a tiered stage—a nightmare
at the top of the world, an entombment
of her skeletal shoulders and thighs
in foam padding and blue satin: a lie
so ineffectual
it was hardly disingenuous.

so again, it’s 1983.
a year that should be
like the others, and full
of velveteen vocals, loss and longing;
brother and sister idling in gardens,
or leaning on pianos crooning
pain-studded, easy listening ballads
into a perfect breeze.

but instead, 1983 is the year
that the postman from hell,
improperly exorcised,
is left to worm his way into the heart
of superstar, drum-lord,
karen carpenter
and break it.

About the author
Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch, but now calls Auckland her home. She is a lover of words, a huge history nerd, and an angry leftie. She is currently an Honours student; studying Classics and Ancient History. She dreams of uplifting the marginalised voices of ancient women, and also of punching Socrates. She couldn't stop writing poems if she tried.
THIS WAY UP

I’d been looking at people the right way up all my life. Through the spy hole in my mother’s belly button, I saw their downturned mouths and knew they were happy. In the darkness, I hooked the corners of my mouth and pulled them up to my chin.

I watched as people’s legs trotted them across the sky, and with the earth above me and the heavens at my feet, I dream-peddled. I saw their arms unhinge to 90 degrees when, like backwards-blooming flowers, they unfurled to squeeze the whole great globe of my mother.

Then I was born and at first I loved my mother. With my eyes screwed shut, I stuck like a magnet in her arms while she rocked me over the endless fall to the floor.

I loved my father too, for about a minute. Then he pinned my cot to the carpeted ceiling and left me there, dangling over the abyss. All night I cried out but he would only swing me over his shoulder and say, “There, there,” before pushing me back at the Axminster.

“Come down from there now,” my mother started saying, “Come down for me, my little upside-down cake,” as I set the wardrobe shuddering with another handstand, desperate to walk on the floor.

“Stop your bloody clowning,” my father would say, one eye on the door.

“Take a look at the kid, will you? Frowning away,” people said at my third birthday party, as chunks of icing crumbled from their mouths and fell crunchily upwards. “You ought to smile, you know,” they bellowed, bouncing their faces closer.

After a while I got my feet to stick properly to the ceiling, but I missed my old ways too much, so I began walking on my hands. My parents relented. Bought me gardening gloves. I wiggled into them and stepped, up up up the front doorstep, step, step, my palms crunching over the sky that glittered with ice and grit. I walked the town, passed blind through crowds who inspected my feet, scooted over cracks and grates in the footpath, over grass that stretched into green sky, down at the seaside under skies of wooden boardwalk that rumbled with the feet of thunder, with stars beneath my feet and the veins of bare trees and the moon a stepping-stone.

About the author
Zoë Meager is from Ōtautahi, Aotearoa New Zealand. Her short stories have been published at home and abroad, most recently in Turbine | Kapohau, Landfall, and Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand. She's fiction editor for takahē and a fiction reader for Overland. There's more at zoemeager.com
Less to Lose

I have less to lose and,
I have less to lose.
I’m short-
dated stock.
Damaged but
might make a nice accessory
to your ego
or your diversity quota.

I’ll play the disability card
if it gives you a moral hard-on
baby,
pity me.
Let me be your
inspirational story
your
two-dimensional trope
a point to measure
it could be worse
a narrative so deeply internalised
this must be what they mean by
having a spare rib.

The black bib
to hide the blood
adorned on me at birth
My bread and butter.
Wash it down with
intense feelings of isolation, and
all the times I made
molehills
out of mountains.

I grew up knowing
I’m pretty
passable
as long as I don’t speak.
I speak anyway.
and let’s face it
I do have to be better than
you
meet someone new and,
hope they see
your
polished Instagram selfie
I walk in and,
that ship has already sailed.
Hashtag nofilter.
I don’t need you anyway
denial is my best friend
and we go
way,           way,         back.

I remember thinking
I can’t be
stupid and fat
I remember thinking
I’m not stupid
I remember thinking
it’s ok if I’m pretty? 

(Yeah I bet you didn’t mean it that way.)

Is that self-esteem or denial talking?

And
all the times I spoke
you mouthed words back at me.
patronising hand-hold
makes my skull turn inside out.
Shove those words down my throat baby,
spoon-feed me while you’re at it.
Cerebral palsy didn’t make me blind.

Wash it down with
violets for breakfast
and this
homogenised breastmilk
I am weening myself of
I am starving myself of

maybe if I get small enough
they won’t notice my speech.
I could probably take
a selfie
that would make me look good enough.

And
just look how big
your body looks
next to mine.
Throw me around babe
I’m the perfect combination of
pretty
with low self-esteem.
Toosmalltofightyouoff
I’m your dream girl.

Wash it down with
red wine
the natural healing properties
of turpentine,
and memories
of when your father taught you
the most humane thing to do
with an injured bird
is to break its neck.

About the author
Maisie is an artist, poet, and teacher based in Wellington, New Zealand. She is co-editor and production manager of art-poetry zine "Salty."
Bloodlines

CW: suicide, self-harm, familial violence 

 

 

I, too, overflow…. I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.1

At 17, I was full of liquid gold, fit to burst and wanting to overflow everywhere. I have spent years not knowing what to do with this gold.

At 22, I’m fucking this boy who talks all the time about hanging himself, is obsessed with the Blade Runner soundtrack, and writes grim, evocative poetry. He wants me to choke him during sex but I don’t because he has suicidal tendencies and I’m worried that hands around the throat might be a stand-in. One night I cut myself in his bathroom. He takes my arm, turns it over, and says, “Poor attempt, D”, while patting it dry with the single, dank towel he owns. Later, he reads my journal and reports back that he found it “disappointing, banal”. I regretted not choking him then.

My father, who has lived in New Zealand since the ’80s but is Italian by birth, blood, and spirit, always protests when my brother, mother, and I tell him to not shout at us. He yells, “I’m not yelling! You Kiwis don’t understand — we Italians, we talk loudly.”

I grew up padded by his shouting. I remember the calibre of his voice before a rage, made thick with wine and husky, quiet, menacing at the start. I would lock myself in our single toilet cubicle to get away from the sound, and trace the chipped paint with my fingers, examining the splitting wood beneath. When I was younger, he would lock himself in the bathroom with my mother, grab her chin between his thumb and forefinger and slap her, while I did the yelling from outside, banging on the door.

How much are we supposed to reveal about ourselves? I feel pressed by the demands of some magical liminal space, a fine line to hold, in which we’re supposed to exhibit openness, candour, and some amount of self-knowledge while understanding what to rein in, when to be chill, and what’s “too much”. I hate this fucking space.

I was sleeping with someone — for six weeks, technically, “just a month,” he said, eight weeks really, “a month,” he said when he let me know it was over. And when I talk about this experience now with friends they seem to think I approached it all a little too earnestly. In my head later, I retort: I have the right to claim an experience no matter how brief. I am done with the idea that the amount of feeling I possess should be regulated and parsed out like wartime rations. I cast off the tyranny of “chill” — I’m a Scorpio, I’m a millennial, I have a lot of feelings.

Maybe it’s because of the curse.

Before Italy’s regions joined into a republic, there was a Count who owned acres and acres of undulating Basilicata land. He was charming and cruel, with a mercurial temper. One day, one of his sons tried to poison him and when the Count discovered his plan, he tied the boy, beat him nearly to death, and cursed his children and the children of his children — my grandfather among them — promising to send disharmony tearing down the generations like bushfire.

I’m into scientific rationalism but there is something appealing about the idea of lingering trouble in the bloodline, a way of explaining my red moods and short but bracing bad spells. A way of understanding feelings that land in me like so many hot stones.

Of course, I don’t believe in curses. My Zia Greta does, though, and burned all of my father’s things one night in an attempt to clean her house of evil energy. Each night after dinner still she stares into the fireplace and smokes cigarettes in a trance. Zia Elisabetta does too, so she ran away and won’t tell anyone where she lives. I’m not sure if Zio Nino believes in the Count’s curse, but he crosses himself while driving long distances and abstains from food two days a week. He also drives drunk and without a seatbelt, not always on the right side of the road. In God’s hands. My eldest Zia, I have no idea what she thinks. Since the eighties she has lived in an asylum called “The Smile”, which is kind of a joke, no-rain-in-a-thousand-years dry. She does smile frequently, baring the three teeth she still has. My nonna didn’t have any teeth either; nonno punched them all out of her mouth for her. Zia Marianna talks to ghosts at the dinner table.

I don’t believe in curses, but I can see that a hundred years of poverty, alcoholism and abuse might be a kind of haunting.

When I feel like I’m too much I want to explain that where I’m from counts, and sometimes I feel palimpsestic. I’m a collection of all these parts. This feels important. There’s madness in our histories, and I feel lucky to wear my emotions comfortably. I’ve seen what it is to hold back, and the damage that is done when emotions are improperly diverted. I don’t know what calm the rest of my family has found, nor what right I have to mine these stories for my own benefit.

I’m trying to move away from the need to manage, justify, and excuse every spilling-over. In this world that tells us to be small, shrink ourselves and be chill, I will always text first, text twice, cry when I want, be needy. I am going to explode, spread myself everywhere, and let my emotions fly like little presents into the universe.

 

[1] Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa (1976), 876

 

 

About the author
Daniela Petrosino was born in Ōtautahi but has been living in Berlin since 2013. She works on migration, far-right movements, and gender politics. You can find her on Twitter @aqua_fan26 and at fourhumors.blog.
These boys with their burning mouths, they’ve got no way to say what they want

We wait in silence

Can you feel the fire licking you?
Softly, don’t you see? It’s not trying to hurt you
It would never hurt you

Why are you bleeding like that?
Under the spit, spit, spit and rain of ash

In the end we’re all reaching towards each other anyway

So why should it matter?
The blisters eventually pop and you can’t hardly
feel it really because it’s just liquid so
what are you complaining about?

I never know when I open my mouth whose voice is going to come out

Spent so long with your tongue down my throat
We absorbed each other by osmosis

When you said your blood was my blood
I opened my skin in front of you

This is called non verbal communication and why are you bleeding like that?

Did it cut you too, darling?
Can you tell the difference between a conversation and a subtext?

Did you set yourself on fire to keep us warm?

About the author
Eliana Gray is an award winning writer living mostly in Ōtepoti. Their poetry has been put in lots of places but most recently it has been put into their debut collection, Eager To Break, which will be available via Girls on Key Press this April. You can find them on Instagram @foxfoxxfox and sometimes in real life.
Two Poems

Watch Your Mouth

I am creating the scaffolding for my own skin,
the fatty tissues that build layer after layer,
sweat glands coiled tight,
nerves kinked like a garden hose.
You grow inside of me and I feel myself rising up
like dough, skin expanding exponentially.

I am stuck in the daily concerns of myself,
the spread of my thighs, clothes splitting at the seams.
Swath my body in yards of silks and French cottons.
Show me how to contour the new contours of myself.

I rub lotion all over my stomach and realize
I am rubbing lotion all over you.
When will we stop expanding?
I turn circles in the mirror,
checking to see where we end,
checking the calendar to see when it will all end.

I feel you snaking across the breadth of my hips,
turning circles inside my breasts and ass.
I am skeptical that you ever spent a day inside my uterus.

I am a room full of objects waiting to be compressed.
Lift up my body and place the swell of it upon a million feathers,
unravel the folds of me across the Pacific Ocean.
I am massive. I want to be weightless.

 

(originally printed in Bound: An Ode to Falling in Love)

 

 

Winter Swimmers

Wind carves through the trees
like waves,
the sound indiscernible
from the ocean.
We can see the harbour
if we stand outside,
our bare feet on the rough boards
creaking like a ship.
In this house
we will never be more than
8 km from the sea.

New green
covers the tops of the ferns,
spreading the valley
with startling pigment,
the old brown lengths hovering
then sinking below.
It is a comfort
to see them go,
a comfort to watch
the new patches
ease in, grow darker,
shouldering down
to take their place.

Pull back on the net of time
and return to the Age of Fish,
their first bones scattered
amongst the trilobites
beneath the seas
and spores and spores
swelling up into trees,
drinking in their waters
high above the waves.

About the author
Carolyn DeCarlo lives in Aro Valley in Wellington, New Zealand, with her partner and cats. She has written a few chapbooks, most recently Green Place (Enjoy Journal 2015) and Bound: An Ode to Falling in Love (Compound Press 2014), which she co-wrote with Jackson Nieuwland. She is a founding member of the Wellington-based reading collective, Food Court.
Venmo Feminism

I like to hold onto the wet dreams of a reality where I am a magnet for capital

I tell people that I am a Venmo Feminist because Dasha Nekrasova told me to be and nothing tastes as good as money feels
“Because of the rampant sexual harassment in our society, it’s not really safe for women to have a job . . . so, in retribution, all gainfully employed men should just hop on Venmo and make things right, and just redistribute the wealth, if you will . . . and in return I won’t call anyone out, and I’ll stay relatively hot.”

I am submerged in a body of water, my lungs the vessels which keep me afloat
Each breath in drags me back up to the surface
I can hear my phone lying on the shore gathering heat from the sun
Inside its locked screen venmo singing a sweet song of repatriation reminding me of my body
The birds are quiet now
To distract me from the feeling I get when I surrender

Please don’t ask to take me out to dinner
I’m a Libra I will lie to you instead of saying no
My venmo cannot consume your $30 pasta
Being in your presence makes me feel so sick I don’t even need to drink wine to have my head spinning

The feeling of breathing outward is like falling into a void
A body that loses all meaning

Instead of saying no I say I don’t get off until 5am
So then you’ll think that I don’t want to come home with you because i’m tired
You can leave with your dignity intact, without being rejected by a girl that takes your $1 bills and turns them into thousands

The ocean becomes a vacuum to an airless body
My limbs spinning in the water waiting to be called back
The sound lives in the cords, a plug being pulled from an old bathtub
Their choking reaching out to me
So that when they are yanked from the wall
The gurgling of death can pull me back up

Venmo feminism only works when I do nothing
(I do the most)
But as I told a customer last night
“I am doing the most while you continually do the least”
(I always do the most)

Venmo feminism makes my body feel real
Venmo feminism gives you instant results
Venmo feminism takes from you while giving to me
Venmo feminism redistributes just the tiniest bit of wealth that should have already been mine
I want venmo feminism to leave you broke but I know that it just keeps me tied in waiting for more

What wet dream of patriarchy do you hold onto?

 

About the author
Mya Cole is an interdisciplinary artist and curator for Window Gallery. She is of Fijian heritage and she interrogates her relationship to her identity through her practice. Specifically she is interested in exploring the body and mind in their placement within the fluidity of online and offline connections.