already in my ripe young age i’ve sucked on a cassia plant and ground
endangered rosewood into dust to put on my morning porridge
played violin in the symphony orchestra forgotten how to
then remembered how to then forgotten how to again,
kissed a girl in the nightshade brambles then un-
kissed her sucking my spit and my love back
with me hidden in my pocket for only the
sparrows to see, written the best poem
in the world only for it to go face-first
into a river eel’s mouth dived into
pools, forgotten how to swim,
remembered again just in
time for the poem to end
for my tongue to curl
and forget how
i saw you at that godawful Lorde concert when she told everyone to shut up. it was late,
and my ears were ringing, but we caught eyes with each other and did that little smile
like we had a joke to tell. you were tall, brown hair – i couldn’t tell what colour your eyes
were because of the stage lights. to me they seemed every colour at once, reflecting
every pulsing beam. i think we could have a real thing together. i missed you.
i saw you in the bread aisle of New World Chaffers Street, which i never go to because
it’s so pretentious. you didn’t seem pretentious though, weighting the heavy sticks of
bread until you found one that slid into your backpack, just the tip peeking out like some
Parisian fantasy. i missed you. i’d love to find you again.
i saw you petting the cat just on the borders of campus. her name is piper, i’ve been told.
we could go find who she belongs to, together?
i saw you at the opera. you were in the shitty seats, the stalls, like me. you were so
engrossed in that tenor’s howling that you let your ice cream melt into your lap. i saw
you walk out of the theatre shame-faced, covered in chocolate. i loved that. i loved how
much you loved the show. i could sing you a serenade too, if you’d let me. i missed you.
i saw you getting lost up at Truby King Park, walking back and forth along the
monuments, your hands empty of a phone. i wanted to help you but i was shy. i can help
you now. i am not shy in these words.
i imagined you in this book that i love – maybe you’ve read it – Orlando by Virginia
Woolf. they call it the greatest and longest love letter of all time. Virginia dresses
her lover up in centuries, ages, fineries, rags. i dress you up in all these situations in the
hope that maybe i will find you in one of them. that instead of breezing by like any other
Wellington day we might stop. and say hi.
i’ve found you here, waiting. i missed you, and miss you. i press this poem to the
corner of your lips, where some other lover might press a kiss.
call me, if you get the time.
dead poet’s special
After Glen Hayward’s Rita Angus Used to Grow Her Own Vegetables
why leave it at Rita Angus?
i don’t see why we shouldn’t sneak
into Katherine Mansfield’s house, seek out
her used underwear, sample the dregs
of old perfume that once touched her skin.
the hardiest plant i’ve ever owned
was one of her historic rose geraniums
but even that was no match for
a salty Wellington storm
and it too perished into leaf-dust ephemera.
come on, what do you say
let’s be pervs of the past
we’re still young and fresh enough
to get away with it, gallivanting into
histories with scalpels and crude words.
let’s take a sip of Virginia Woolf’s
leftover coffee, clean the table with
James K Baxter’s old boxer shorts
dress up in Oscar Wilde’s one white shirt
that was left in the wash when he died.
amateur archaeologists, that’s what we’ll
be: scooping handfuls of dirt and brushing
them against our teeth, as if they were pearls
as if we can test the preciousness of
time so easily – if only longevity was so
easy to predict – but our hands make
many things and it is really up to chance
what survives, and what wilts in the
winter salt. i used to be jealous
of people in Britain who would find
Roman pottery fragments in their gardens.
now, i can imagine what a burden
it would be, your feet superimposed over
some leather-sandaled magistrate
knowing you live on someone else’s toes.
i can picture it. the ceramic dust
under your tongue, finding pottery
shards in your bedroom drawers, in the
toilet, in your dog’s mouth after he’s
been digging in the dirt, the past following you
everywhere. yet still, there’s a yearning —
some stupid fantasy of finding something
valuable that the sea has up-chucked over
to me, finding a Titanic-esque jewel
in the dirt and overgrown onion weed.
who knows what we may excavate
by spending our nosy time well
digging our little claws so eagerly
into salt and saline, brine and leaf
litter, the ocean’s swallowing tongue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cadence Chung is a poet, composer and musician from Te Whanganui-a-Tara, currently studying at the New Zealand School of Music. She draws inspiration from Tumblr posts, antique stores and dead poets. Her debut poetry book anomalia was published by We Are Babies press in April 2022.