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.

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.

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.