Four straps over one shoulder: the usual
baggage, plus a blood pressure monitor.
At twenty minute intervals it beeps
and constricts, measuring my blood
as it struggles through tunnels.
a gift from my stressed ancestors.
I remember my Pop scraping every last skerrick
of wine from a foil cask with a metal ruler
and Nan’s salty treats – Lay’s Thins –
stashed on top of the fridge. Our hearts
and brains are prone to blowing up.
I’m trying to stay calm
but I’ve just climbed four flights
to my boyfriend’s apartment to discover
one of the keys I had cut is a dud.
It’s lunchtime and I need to pee.
The machine grips my arm like a Floatie
inflated by an overzealous parent
with Olympian lungs.
Through the smudged vestibule window
I can see across town, where my friend Tamara
is currently dying. It’s a process: an unspooling
list of things she’ll never do again, grieved
in real time.
Seemingly mundane milestones
like birthdays take on weight – she cried
to realise she wouldn’t reach my age:
thirty-eight. Talking about the future
feels like a faux pas, and attempting to relate
is met – quite rightly – with scorn.
The pain disrupts her sleep, denying her
even that escape into ignorance.
When I leave her place
I feel guilty relief. But a livestream
in my mind plays in a browser window
where her sunken eyes connect with mine
and ask to be witnessed.
Steven’s locked front door, I picture all
the boring things I would do in there:
make tea, defrost bread, open my laptop
under the pretext of poetry or work
only to scroll news sites and social media
and get increasingly depressed.
I leave my bags
and go back to the street: a frigid wind tunnel
of weekday efficiency. Pensioners in masks
mill outside the medical centre.
Office workers queue for chicken rolls.
I sit beneath the last remaining red leaves
of a Japanese maple, trying to resist the pub.
A month later I’ll buy a Fitbit
and my blood pressure will go down.
At Tamara’s bedside I’ll check my step count
while neighbours on nearby balconies
take pictures of the setting sun.
- 109: NO THEME 12with C Maling & N Rhook 108: DEDICATIONwith L Patterson & L Garcia-Dolnik 107: LIMINALwith B Li 106: OPENwith C Lowe & J Langdon 105: NO THEME 11with E Grills & E Stewart 104: KINwith E Shiosaki 103: AMBLEwith E Gomez and S Gory 102: GAMEwith R Green and J Maxwell 101: NO THEME 10with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACE with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones