Paula Harris

Atlas issue 3

Herakles gets admitted to the psych ward and his mother asks if he has clean underwear

He doesn’t.

Getting admitted to the psych ward wasn’t part of today’s plans.

He had intended to kill the Hydra as it was marked in his diary,
right after his psychiatrist appointment,
so he only had sufficient underwear for the day.

He had intended to wash his smalls this evening
or maybe over the weekend if he was too tired tonight.

Now he’s in a cell on the psych ward
with only the underwear and clothing he’s wearing,
a notebook, a pen and a tube of lip balm
(as his lips are prone to dryness).

His mother asks if she should break into his house
in order to get his underwear,
she tuts when he advises that there is no clean underwear,
continues to talk about the need for clean underwear
while he howls I’m in the psych ward, I’m in the psych ward
I’m in the psych ward

Hera arrives at visiting hours bearing a shopping bag from Farmers,
she smirks as he opens it to find Superman underwear.


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.