Paula Harris

Daddy's Little Girl

I remember a time when
I was fifteen or sixteen,
my dad came home early -
something that rarely happened
because he was always at work
or with a woman that wasn't my mother.

I remember the look on his face
when he saw me,
saw my clean yellow shirt crumpled
on the floor at his feet,
my teenage bra hanging from the end
of my single bed,
heavy school shoes thrown in any direction,
my chaste white cotton panties
unable to be seen,
while I lay across my unmade bed
still wearing my white school socks,
my shapeless brown checked skirt around my waist,
and a beautiful Samoan boy,
two years older,
at my feet, with his jeans at his ankles
and his shirt lying with mine.

And I cannot forget the look in my father's eyes.

And he turned away while I swore under my breath,
pulling down my skirt
and fumbling with the catch on my bra -
which was more trouble getting on
than it had been getting off -
giving up fastening it
pulling on my shirt instead
although the buttons would not go through the holes.
And I found him in the kitchen
and pretending nothing had happened or been seen
I asked my father how his day had been
and with unseeing eyes looking out the window
my father replied
fine dear, it was fine
and maybe my friend would like to leave
before mum comes home.


First published in JAAM 15 (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.