the architecture of our future
home, though we didn’t know it.
Autumn settled on the bridge
of her lips and I couldn’t tell her
I didn’t want to kiss that cold –
I was never any good at caring
for her when she was sick.
I had to keep asking her to repeat
herself because the wind would
unwind her words before
she was done with them.
The garage of bones
we walked past stopped
that fight, at least.
A wind rode by, and on it floated
a convergence of dust.
She took my hand to tell me
dust is never just dust – oh
daughter of archaeology,
you should know!
What I don’t care about astounds
me. Bone compels – the crucial
architecture, the fundamental structure.
What I might hone into a powder,
fold into a paper square, talk
into a spell. That gritty midnight mantra.
She was always more comfortable
with the blood – her hands neat
on a raw piece
slicing away the fat, chipping out
a rogue vein, tongue between
There are proper and improper ways
to hunger – crimson was always
her favourite colour.
Somewhere in our future
my spade chomps at
something where I am turning
over a vege garden. We keep
chickens, she keeps an axe.
I still prefer skulls –
the elegant syntax
of heads without their faces
attached. Her fingernails
are never entirely clean.
What she cares about confounds
me – I don’t remember
most of what we’ve said
to each other – just the shape of her
lips settling on her words –
maybe we should dig them up
but then, where would we
It’s hard to know what might have been erased
with the paleness of her skin,
what makes up this patina that’s replaced it.
Her anaemic-marble cheeks spilt with warm
Bordeaux. The blood of every lacquered Madonna.
Giotto, Bartolo, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian,
Fra Angelico, Raphael, Parmigianino…
There is a new oldness in her smile – borrowed shine.
She’s seen the great cities from above.
Terracotta tiled housetops spinning hazy with heat.
Tidy kaleidoscope of boulevards. Brown river, big Ben.
And below. 500 stumble-down steps nicked
in the crook of a cliff. Leading to a world made entirely
of flat black pebbles, green water and freckled
fish unflustered in the sun.
The vampiric depths of the catacombs, inverse city.
The slick of midnight snow in Montmartre.
Spring-green slam of absinthe.
History without modesty, beyond beauty.
Her old quietness has become contemplation.
The sky making space around her, Vermeer-big, dense
with every colour that makes up the grey
of eyes that used to be
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah Mettner is a Gisborne writer who lives and sometimes works in Wellington. She is one the the editors of Sweet Mammalian, a new literary journal. For further information, please consult her poems.