Paula Harris

Snorkel issue 21

the secret of the universe

sometimes when my rabbit is cleaning himself,
first one leg, then another,
then back to the first,
I lay my head on the floor beside him
and every few seconds
he will pause in his cleaning
to watch me
for a moment

and when he is satisfied with his cleanliness
he will stretch his head forward,
followed by his front legs,
and lick my arm
and I will say
“bunny kisses”
and he will lick my cheek
or nose
or ear

sometimes he will lay his head on the floor,
beside my hand,
pressing his chin into the ground
which means
“scratch between my ears”
“rub my head”
and so I do
and his eyes close a little
and I swear sometimes he smiles

sometimes he will stretch his little body
across my abdomen
resting his head on my breast
and I think
“do you know how much I love you?”
“do you know that I’m yours?”

just behind his ears,
in the crease
on the back of his neck,
the fur is so soft
that when you touch it
it’s like touching nothing at all

and that is the best place to be

First published in Snorkel (2015)
Also published in Poems in The Waiting Room (2016)

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.