Paula Harris

you will dig me from the earth with your bare hands, in order to resurrect me

this will be challenging, given that I intend to be cremated,
the cremains then scattered along the ridge of the Tararuas

but still, you will sift through the dirt, the ferns,
the decomposing leaves, the insects;
you will make sacrifices of wheat and goats to the Anemoi,
so that they will agree to use the winds
to help you draw my scattered self to one place

you will worship orishas and physics, you will learn to bend time,
you will make offerings to gods and spirits
that you previously didn’t even know existed

you will gather the first tears of conjoined twins,
the last howl of a dying white wolf,
the moments between thunder and lightning,
the fourth tail of an albino axolotl,  
a lamb’s happiest jump,
a metric cup of warmth, created by sunlight hitting the point of Cleopatra’s Needle,
the moment a seed breaks through the surface and becomes a seedling,
five kisses from a Buddhist monk who lives in a cave high above the Matsang River,
927 grams of steel, captured from the dust of knives as they are sharpened,
eleven memories of my smile

you will cast spells,
you will create a sacred circle, a sacred triangle,
a sacred pentagram, a sacred parallelogram

you will wipe the dirt, the decomposing leaves, the insects
from my re-forming body

you will hold my almost-formed left hand and beg me to return,
you will sing me lullabies,
you will tell me how you’ve missed me, how this was all a mistake

with infinite gentleness you will wipe away the dirt water tears
that slip from my still-closed eyes

and all of this will be too late

First published in Ruminate 49 (2018)

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.