My Amour


I’m growing armour, my amour. 
Thick leather and scurf is all over my body 
replacing my skin, now creeping along the walls of my lungs. 
By degrees my breath grows numb. 
           I wake up and my head is enveloped in tin. 
I slide back a little door, and there you are sleeping 
and I close it again. 
My mouth rattles at the grating. If you are to hear me 
I must shout everything. 
I clank hopelessly when we go walking, like a terrible 
broken engine, pistons frothing. My amour you take my rusted hand 
and lift it gently, not minding. 

Afternoon with Jane

Being a friend, Jane said, ‘You’re 
the whole package!’ 
No one had ever 
called me a package 
before. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m a package, 
of sorts.’ Or I hoped to be one, 
one day – bundled together, on 
my way. 
Jane said, ‘Don’t be silly,’ and was beautiful 
in the high-backed chair, wearing her enormous black skirt 
and crinkly leather boots (like dead balloons, but beautiful 
on her particular feet), a thick clot of hematite 
beaded round her neck, and her blown-glass hair 
in a plait. 
It is possible to stare and stare at Jane 
who is beautiful in such a way 
that one never grows bored 
but some do grow sad, in her company. 
I stared, and felt myself go 
sad – there would be no surprises – 
as my resolve opened, 
dispatched itself in pieces. 
‘Stop,’ Jane said, ‘stop writing 
your lists and go out and do 
something. Ask out Nose Boy – ask him his name. 
Go diving.’ 
‘It’s hopeless,’ I said, and echoed 
‘It’s hopeless,’ because that is the nature 
of hopelessness; echoing itself, bending in on itself 
through an infinity of selves, like a room 
full of mirrors: every surface 
mounting another to breed millions more. 
‘It is not,’ Jane said, ‘It is not,’ because that is the nature 
of hope, she said: it refracts 
hopelessness, and fills you – 
as a mailroom, piled high with mail – 
with many more hopes, all waiting to be posted 
into the present tense: it is 
a room fat with letters 
many wrongly addressed but all destined 
to travel – 
she said this, my friend Jane, 
her explanation gorgeously wrought 
but ultimately unwrappable; 
she narrowed her cut-glass eyes 
as if she thought she could see 
the names and addresses 
of all the mail bundled in me. 

Giving My Father Frights

We discover no end of windows 
of opportunity for giving my father frights. 
           Our house is for hiding in. 
We crouch in the porch, waiting for the bend of his shadow. 
           The frightening of him 
happens in slow, simultaneous motion: we leap 
and my father’s feet 
explode from the floor 
and like a man falling he roars – 
           we nest in the pantry. He comes searching for tea 
and finds us instead, flared eyes and limbs 
springing at him, blowing chip packets and muesli into the air – 
           we fold into chests 
                      we hang motionless in the long curtains 
           we hide in his suits, in the wardrobe 
and once in the ceiling – 
           dropping like spiders onto the bed 
beside him, as he is sleeping. There is no sound 
like my father’s roar, its fury and fear, 
each time we burst out at him 
like the living dead. 
           It is the sound of wishing 
           for a time when 
           a doorway was a welcome 
the pantry unforthcoming 
the wardrobe hung only with clothes: 
all the empty suits, waiting. 

Listen to Ashleigh Young read ‘Giving My Father Frights


Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington and works as a bookseller and occasional freelance writer. Her poems have appeared in SportBest New Zealand Poems, and the anthology Great Sporting Moments. She is currently shambling her way through a small, first collection of poems.