As I am writing this,
you are taking apart a naval barracks

by hand.             Boom and splinter of antique wood,
                            the woop of metal relinquished
                            from the roof.

A few old sailors wrote
letters to the editor about heritage

                                                 but your team is tearing it down. It is very loud.
                                                 The light is the light of a porthole just below the water.

This morning, seeing your mismatched toes
in a peephole of sock, I imagined a mushroom

                                    on which to darn it.                                      I see it revolving
                                                                                     in black space, your sock, a red-
                                                                                     threaded needle.
                                                                                     My mind is a velvet museum drawer.

You don’t need to command your limbs,
in the belly of the building
you move like a secret mite of the body.

                                                                                     It is loud inside a body: we all know this.

                                                                                                  The body is full of currents,

                                                                                                  it carries the outside world like a boat.

The air is the air of a place long-silent, a hallowed feel.
All noise seems to make a big mess.

One thing I admire about you is decisiveness,

which is how I know you are good at striking a mallet,
even to break something.

                                                                                        A boat must withstand heavy pressure
                                                                                        to be strong enough it must be hollow.

It is quite likely that my Grandpa stayed
in that naval base at the time he met my Grandma.
It is you that remind me of this.

                                                                               My Grandma was a midwife at that point,
                                                                               an ancient job.

                                                                                                                                                           I am so

taken with preservation
I forget how wonderful it can
be to disassemble.

                                                                        In the walls there are all sorts of things stashed….

Your phone is breaking when you call me on the bus.
I have to speak loud right into the mouthpiece,
and move quickly to catch your answer.

                                                      tobacco tins, navy                                                  hats…… old notes….
                                                      photographs, buried within beams …… treasures men forgot

                                                      ….. secrets perhaps

You old tap,
clean cold thoughts running out….

                                                                                                 I wish my thoughts ran as clear as yours.
                                                                                                               I think it’d be easier to get angry.



Cross-country in the dwindling
conversation, too tired to blow
at the embers. Intermittently
a hand-made chimney bereft
of its house; a cottage missing
its smoke. There’s a hermit
part of us. A heated discussion
about sex—a week away, but
we get there too fast—after a bath,
where top-to-toe our bodies
reflect. Blue-white bath, sub
merged flesh. Refracting, our
one new alien form. You hold up
two wrinkled hands to illustrate
chiral. When the cold water
drains, your pubes deflate like
seaweed as the tide goes out.
I put on a slutty skirt. We argue.
Sex to you is like closing white
shutters at the end of a long
day. Do I even understand?
I’m like, a freaking octopus.
Next day I run out the hot water
in the shower thinking how
different we are—when you got
that speeding ticket, did you even
blink? To witness is to love and love
is proof. My little chiasmus, I do
understand you—wink.


Mel Ansell is a poet currently living in Wellington. She has previously been published in Starling, Sweet Mammalian, Takahē, and Critic.