Paula Harris

I eat men like air

1.
the first was a maroon dressing gown:
microplush it whispered to me when I touched it

that first time. this is just for winter I said
as I wrapped it around me that night.

we both sighed. winter became spring
and still I curled into it, and not just at night

but from the moment I got out of bed,
the moment I came back home. this was

my first husband. one of his loops became
unstitched and I promised I’d sew it

back into place that night, but I didn’t.
instead I let the tie hang from the remaining

loop when it wasn’t pulled around my waist.
god, the nightly snuggles we had for all those years.

2.
my second husband was a French pear scented candle:
he knew how to do romance. all soft flickering light

and beautiful smells. when I walked into a room,
seeing him there, I would immediately relax. he would

nudge my book from my hands just lie back baby
and be with me. I’d turn off the overhead light and then

lie back and just be with him. but for all the romance
I could never be faithful; his sandalwood second-cousin

would rub against my nose and I am a weak woman,
easily tempted into badness. how could I possibly resist?

I would let his heaviness rest on me after, so satisfying
in a way that my French pear husband never could be.

even though I loved him. even though I wanted to stay
faithful to him. but then there was this pomegranate candle…

3.
you’re married to your television people spat at me;
I smiled smugly and closed the door in their faces.

he was demanding from the start, he wanted so much
do this and then this and now this and now do this and

have you done this yet and I just couldn’t be fussed with all that;
somehow we got there. he spoke to me in different accents,

in different languages, about all sorts of ideas. sure,
books can offer you ideas, but my television would whisper

them to me, would shout them to me, would light up
when I entered the room if I’d been gone for more than

half an hour. it’s nice to have someone notice if
you’re not around, to lullaby you when you can’t sleep.

but some of the ideas grew boring, sometimes I couldn’t stand
to hear him talk anymore, sometimes I wished we’d never met.

4.
my new husband is a chocolate cake. well, less of a
chocolate cake and more of a recipe for chocolate cake,

with all the ingredients easily at my disposal. he can be
relaxed and naked, just him and plate and cake fork and me.

or he can dress up with chocolate ganache or strawberries
or raspberry coulis or that bright sprig of mint, worn

like a pocket square, for formal affairs. I can have him
on the couch or in the car or at the dining table or

at my computer or in bed. when I have used him up,
I can make more. because I always want more and men

were never able to keep up. I can lick the spoon, lick
the bowl, press my finger against the crumbs and suck

my finger. and when I take him in my mouth, my tongue
slips around him, breaks him apart, easier to digest.

First published in Geometry 4 (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, Glass, Diode, The Spinoff, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Aotearotica. Her essays have been published in The Sun, Hobart, The Spinoff and Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (Victoria University Press).

She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric.