Paula Harris


after two months, three weeks and two days, my boyfriend leaves his toothbrush in my bathroom

walking through Foodtown
at 10:35
on a Wednesday night
in need of chocolate
to go with our ice cream

he said

i was thinking
i'd buy a new toothbrush
leave it
at your place
if that's okay

up til then
his toothbrush
had made overnight visits
four or five times a week
(sometimes seven times
if we were being truly gluttonous)
leaving with him
in the morning

my heart
stopped for a second
or maybe it raced
or maybe
both at once

i can't remember

i said


and tried
to breathe

back at my place
he unwrapped
his new toothbrush
and put it
next to mine

in the morning
when he was gone
i got up
had breakfast
brushed my teeth
and put my toothbrush
next to his

First published in Poetry New Zealand (2004)

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.