Paula Harris


there is a scratch on the inside of my right knee

it’s been there for five weeks now

which probably indicates I could do with
taking some zinc to help the healing

the zip on my left black knee high leather boot
is to blame, having sliced the skin
as I uncrossed and recrossed my legs

I was sitting on a couch with you at the time

you had suggested we go out for a drink
at my favourite place,
tucked above Courtenay Place
with candlelight and dark walls,
and we had sunk into the depths
of the couch and each other

I remember the moment of zip and skin making contact,
glancing down to see drops of blood
pushing themselves out into the world
along the inside of my knee

I turned back to you rather than
dealing with my broken skin,
mentally blowing on my knee
to soothe it

we stayed on that couch for two hours
talking about movies and music
and other small details of our lives:
how our week had been,
the years it’s taken you to rebuild your car, our travels,
how I got my scars, our worst dates

and sometimes we sat in silence
and it was easy

somewhere in getting to know you better
I found I liked the easiness of our talking,
the loosening of my shyness,
the quiet comfort of our physical closeness,
how our laughter was loud and unforced
and frequent

I found I liked you
more than I would’ve imagined
and not just in a friends way

afterwards you walked me back to my car
which was unexpected and lovely

I wondered if maybe
the universe would be kind to me
and you might feel the same

it wasn’t
and you

instead I am left
with a slowly healing scratch
on the inside of my right knee

First published in Poetry New Zealand (2017)

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.