Paula Harris

QMT - June 2019

there are many different ways to say I love you, and I prefer ones that don’t involve flowers from the supermarket (although I do love irises and extravagant bouquets of lilies with pink centres)

I am parking the car, having found a car park easily
(which is always a bonus)
when Mike says

            I’d let you drive my car.

I look at him out of the corner of my eye,
still weighing up the distance between the wheels and the curb,
if I’m giving the next one to park enough space behind me,
and say

            No you wouldn’t.

Mike loves his car

Mike loves to hate his car

Mike hates to love his car

Mike drives a Nissan 300ZX, black, 1989, which he’s worked on for six years
taking out the engine and biffing out the unnecessary bits
(which always concerns and amazes me; how
does he know they’re unnecessary?)
before putting it all back together

modifying the bits that irritate him,
creating the bits he thinks should’ve been there in the first place,
upgrading the brakes,
polishing the chrome under the chassis
(even though no one will ever see it)

I’ve never seen a car engine so beautiful and clean
and I comment on the insanity of cleaning a car engine with such frequency
(although I say it with a little bit of awe)
and I tease him about the wheels with their oversized rims and what they’re implying

when we go out in his car he crawls over any rise or fall in the road
and parks as far away from other cars as possible
in case someone might nudge against the paintwork

            I’d let you drive my car.

            No you wouldn’t.

I put on the handbrake and switch off the engine and turn to him

            Yes I would.

            Mike, you love your car.

he shrugs

            It’s just a car.

it’s not just a car

            It’s not just a car. You love your car.

he looks at the automatic gearbox of my car
(Toyota Corolla sedan, silver, 2012)

            You can drive a manual, right?

I snort

            Of course I can.

            Then I’d let you drive my car.

            But what if I crashed it? What if I scraped the tyres?

            It’s just a car.

            So you let people drive your car?

he frowns


I triumph

            See, you wouldn’t let me drive it!

            I’d let you drive my car.

we undo our seatbelts and get out, walking down the hill
and I nudge my shoulder against Mike’s
and he nudges his against mine

First published in Queen Mob's Teahouse (2019)

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.