Paula Harris

between aftershocks, Mike and I play hopscotch with a stranger on footpath markings

I take him to Wakefield Street and show him smashed glass and rubble
and the rip in the side of two buildings where they have rocked
back and forth into each other

on the way he comments on the spray-painted markings on the footpath:
lines and arrows and dots and curves
numbers and letters
yellow and purple and blue and green and brown

he wonders if maybe they’re dance moves
and starts to tango the dots and curves,
I dance the lines and arrows
forward and back, forward and back

a woman walking towards us laughs
at the two forty-somethings playing on the footpath
next to the near empty street

she starts to play hopscotch in response to us
and we take on the challenge:
I jump dots and an arrow and lines and another dot
while Mike leaps between widely spaced dots and curves,
I try to copy him but can’t make the leaps

she turns and walks towards Taranaki Street,
where building alarms ring on and on
and yellow tape marked “hot site” wraps around cracked buildings

we twirl and I hop-skip for a few steps
as we pass the cordoned off building where my car remains caught

First published in Landfall 233 (2017)

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.