Paula Harris

Jaam31

living next door to the god of love

if you should ever
meet my neighbour
you would probably
never guess
that he is the god of love

he looks like an ordinary man
with an ordinary car
in front of an ordinary house
in an ordinary street

despite all that
he is the god of love

he has lived like this
over centuries
living next door
to people like me
but behind closed doors
he weaves
his own type of magic

he has used
different names
over the years
- Eros
Dwyn
Byron
Barry White

he has used
different weapons
over the years
- arrows
letters
music
accidents

but the results
are always the same

for the last two years
his name has been
Keith

I don't know
what his current
weapon of choice is

I haven't been inside
his home
but I have stood
at his front door
and seen his hallway
- long and deep red
as a tulip -
the walls crowded
with photos of
nameless couples

"I live next door"
I said
"Welcome to the neighbourhood"

"I am the god of love"
he said
and looked deep
through my eyes

we stood there
silent
for a minute
or more

"Thank you"
I told him

First published in JAAM 31 (2013)

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.