Negotiating Space

The floor is wet. Tap, dripping, 
dripping. Soap ends are slippery 
colour. I sit on the bath’s edge and 
try to look out the window. Through 
the grill the pigeon shrills. I poke 
my tongue at his bright eyes 
and vermillion feet. The next day 
the bird rewards us with 
a hall full of feathers, coils 
of bird shit and a broken window. 
We seal the hole up with cardboard, 
sweep the litter into a pile. 
Summer still blows in and we stretch out 
with the AC in a smaller room. 
Pigeon cooes its presence 
deep into the night, I paint 
its reflection on the corrugated 
surface. The next day 
the flowers are gone. 


Every child who listens 
all night to the wind eventually 
knows his breathing turns a wheel 
pouring time and dream to leave no trace. 
Li-Young Lee, ‘Tearing the page’. 
I imagine you are consumed 
by his imminent departure, 
worry lines crowd your forehead 
leaving space for foundation 
to linger. The clock is ticking 
against your will. Prisms 
of revolving rooms, 
these visions circle, 
light is fat, it glistens. 
Every child who listens 
to the sound of water running 
out of the bathtub, who swims 
in the residue of bubbles, 
who remembers the outline 
of their mother—this is your child too. 
A mark of your shadow, blessedly, 
endlessly, your child 
will remain the lick of a tongue 
after ice cream. A melody 
all night to the wind eventually
crashes and falls into your lap. 
Sometimes you will wish for the silence 
of a river being blown in all directions, 
for the chop, the slice of breathing 
working its way through cheeks 
puckered like orange peel. 
You may hope the body 
will be strong enough to contain him; 
this boy has become an eel, 
knows his breathing turns a wheel 
deep inside your centre. You need his baking soda 
texture to smooth the wrinkles of your skin. 
You remember nothing about life 
before him, except the enormity 
of everything else, now shrunk to the size 
of your pinkie. You hold his face 
like a lantern. His brow is a beacon, 
and as the darkness thickens, 
you worry the ripples, the haste, 
pouring time and dream to leave no trace. 


Kirsten Le Harivel completed her Masters at the Institute of Modern Letters in 2013. Her work has been published in Blackmail PressPenduline Press and the 4th Floor. She is a member of the Conversations Across Borders project and lives on the Kāpiti Coast.