Paula Harris

Atlas issue 3

Herakles contemplates the innate value of human life, and decides he’d rather have quiet

The woman in the neighbouring cell
spends all night snoring
(enough to wake the heavens)
and all day screaming
(enough to disturb hell)

Herakles keeps waiting for her
to be taken to the place
for worse people, until he realises
that that’s the place they’re in

He closes his eyes and asks Zeus
that the woman will die;
this place has taught him the value of life is low
but quiet is necessary in measured doses

First published in Atlas Literary Medical Journal 3 (2018)

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.