Paula Harris

QMT - June 2019

a wolf named Naya became the first wolf on Belgian soil on over 100 years, covering up to 70 kilometres a night, which somehow led me to write this poem, in which I am a sheep

but you keep a pet sheep
letting it wander in and around your home
with freedom, watching movies with it,
making it breakfast, giving it good night hugs

it’s okay if someday you and your sheep need to talk
about how you’ll both manage things when you meet a llama,
or the sheep meets a bull,
and how to juggle sheep-in-the-house / llama-staying-overnight / jealous-bull-or-llama
   logistics and personal politics

but when you fence off a section of grass
and tell the sheep that This Is Where It Is To Live Now
because Boundaries Are Needed,
as we learnt, it doesn’t work out so well

this poem is a bit weird, and I don’t really know
why I’m a sheep in it, but it’s incredibly lonely
being put out in a paddock surrounded by invisible wire
when I’m used to good night hugs and being in the house

relationships don’t need boundaries to be set,
they happen organically and things either are or aren’t,
which you might dismiss as Overly Simplistic
but that’s better than Overly Complicated

so you can’t be surprised when the sheep,
freshly shorn, put into a paddock by itself
to face the cold and a she-wolf,
resigns itself to having its throat torn out

First published in Queen Mob's Teahouse (2019)

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.