Paula Harris


I end up on tinder due to Philip Larkin’s encouragement, which is remarkable given that he’s dead and I have suicidal ideation

I had always pictured him as a stereotype of timid librarian-ness,
all ill-fitting tweed jackets and sensible bedtimes,
only knowing his name because of his thoughts on parenting

then I heard about his numerous lovers,
the clash between lovers and tweed catching me off-guard
and I said, in envy, “good for Larkin”

he paused in his sweat-marked DH Lawrence t-shirt,
rested his forearm on the push lawnmower
(even when you’re dead, the grass keeps growing)
and snorted “yes, good for me!”

we both paused and thought about how
this was indeed good for him

he took my phone from my bag,
somehow knowing my pin and passwords
(I guess the dead know everything)
installing tinder on my phone
while I tried to come up with sensible reasons why he shouldn’t
but realistically I miss the warmth of another body
I miss the mix of my sweat with another’s
I miss the sentimental closeness
I miss losing myself loudly in the sensation of my body
I miss fooling myself for an hour or two that love exists

I write my profile, balancing funny with interesting,
Larkin looking over my shoulder and nodding,
nodding again as I message men telling them exactly
what I’m looking for, and that it isn’t love,
because I don’t have the timeframe to allow for that

someone said to me that whenever she’s with a man
whose expectations for the evening
are further progressed than hers
she starts to read him poetry,
it’s a sure-fire guarantee to get things back under control

I tell Larkin this (aware that I’m talking with a dead poet),
he picks a cut blade of grass from his forearm
before picking a daisy from the ground to tuck behind my ear
but it doesn’t stay in place, and as he catches it in his palm
he tells me “if you’re trying to bed a woman,
tell her you’re a poet and it might help.
if you’re trying to bed a man, best keep it to yourself.”

I laugh because he’s right, I look over at the condensation
on his glass of pilsner
the pooling of water on the book beneath it

“shall we go to the supermarket to find love amongst the cabbages?”
I ask him,
even though I don’t think we will
even though he’s dead
even though I don’t know what either of us would do
if we did find it there
tucked away with the onions or the snowpeas

Long listed in the Live Canon International Poetry Competition (judge: Liz Berry)

First published in Live Canon Anthology (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.