Paula Harris


1976 Ford Escort 1.3cc, painted yellow

A gift from my father, my 18th birthday,
I hated her from the start.

But now, years later,
when rust nearly took her
from me,
I find that the possibility of losing her
makes my heart spasm.

She suits me,
a friend said.
I'm still not sure
what he means.

She's solidly built,
and even though the heater
hasn't worked in year,
and the fan drowns out
the radio,
she still starts up
every morning,
flat batteries aside.

When I first turn
the key in the ignition
the deep rumble of her
catches in my throat.
Sometimes I gun the engine
just to hear it again.

On days when the engine
gets too heated,
unable to budge her water cap.
I seduce men
to open her up for me.

I offer her
no shelter,
I slam the doors
(it's the only way)
and scared of the spider
in the boot
I leave the webs
But on good days
I sing her songs,
off-key and with the
wrong words
and I'll call that


Postscript: Paula's 1976 Ford Escort 1.3cc painted yellow with alloy wheels and leather steering wheel, was stolen on the evening of Monday June 18 2001. She is missed.

First published in takahē 43 (2001)

Paula Harris

About Paula

Paula Harris lives in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where she writes and sleeps a lot, because that's what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award, and was a semi-finalist for the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. She was the recipient of a Vermont Studio Center writing residency in 2018.

Her poetry has been published in various journals, including Passages North, Barren, New Ohio Review, SWWIM, Gulf Coast, The Spinoff, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Aotearotica. Her essays have been published in The Sun, Passages North, The Spinoff and Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (Victoria University Press).

She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric.