Paula Harris


Seven Little Lies

I told Mark
I wasn’t a virgin
because virginity was so embarrassing,
because it was my first time,
because he was so experienced.
I found out six years later
I was his first.

I didn’t tell her
but never corrected my mother
when she said that Dwayne was fucking everyone
except me.
I didn’t point out to her
that I was fucking Dwayne
and Ronnie, Tyrone and Tony
Darryl, the other Darryl
and some guy whose name I can’t remember

I told Andrew
I wasn’t at all interested in Tom
even though Tom and I were having sex
every other night.
Andrew found us in bed two weeks later
surrounded by used condoms.
He gave up his best friend.

I told Ronnie
that I’d had sex with a woman
because men like that kind of thing
don’t they?
He told me
it was a sin against god
then asked for details.
I had sex with a woman
just to spite him.

Oh yeah baby,
I told Dean.
Oh yes, yes, yes, like that
like that
god yes
more more
oh oh oh oh
I’ve told that one to several men.

I pretend to Simon
that everything’s fine between us
and act like we never
spent all night
sleeping naked next to one another,
we never kissed for hours,
pretend we never said I love you
that he never said that he couldn’t handle it
any more.
I don’t dare say to him
I still miss you
I don’t dare wonder
if he misses me too.

I tell everyone
that of course I’m over Simon
that I’d never want him back.

Some days I even convince myself.

First published in Poetry New Zealand 24 (2002)

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.