from Autobiography of a Marguerite


Last time I was here I filled in a form, or maybe I filled it out. I hate forms. I hate forms? After last time, I formed an opinion. I cannot articulate the opinion, but I know I formed one. On a scale of one to ten, I can never just pick one number. On a scale of one to then. The doctor is looking at my form. I nod and smile when she says something I don’t hear. On the desk is a packet of ‘non-sterile’ latex gloves. I look at my watch, but I’m not wearing a watch. She leans closer to me, pointing at the form. So, when rating your progress, from the choices of: quicker than expected, as expected, and slower than expected, you circled my progress is slower than I expected. Why did you circle that?

I don’t know. Because I’m still in pain, because I noticed improvement before and now I don’t? I look at my watch, but I’m not wearing a watch. The doctor says, Sure, but, is progress slower than you expected or slower than you hoped?


On a floured surface, pressed and stretched with the back of the hand, folded over, rotated repeatedly. I cannot stand in one place for very long, because of my knees. The cookbook on the bench is called I Hate to Cook. My mother comes into the kitchen and says, I need the oven soon, so hurry up. My friend B. calls me on the phone when my hands are covered in dough, I don’t want to speak but I do. There’s no need to worry, he says, which means, there’s no need for him to worry, there’s no need for him to worry about me, or to worry about my worrying. I look at my knees and they are like dough. The knee joint connects to the thigh and consists of two articulations, one between the femur and tibia, and one between the femur and patella. But I’m not articulate. What am I trying to prove. My mother comes into the kitchen and says, I need you.


Take a position. Noon, we’re in the kitchen again, I’m hungry. My mother takes a bite of her sandwich, Do you want this? You can have it if you want, I can make myself another. She is hungry. I feel hungry, I think, but I don’t feel hunger, I feel that I think I’m hungry because I want to be hungry, because I haven’t been hungry for months, it’s a symptom. A bite of nothing. No, I’m fine, I can’t decide what I feel like, I say. What is inside her sandwich? I’m having trouble imagining what is inside her sandwich. My position is the middle, not yes, the filling, I don’t know, the filling is not always filling, not no. Do you even know who she is?


The song I’m listening to tells me that people take pictures of each other to prove that they loved one another, and to prove that they really existed. I don’t listen to music very often, I don’t like noise, it overwhelms my nervous system, my alpha brain waves are low.

I find a camera in a junk shop with film in it. I get the film developed that afternoon. There’s a lot of damage, and many of these are underexposed, the woman says. Who’s the baby in the photos? I think about some of the places I used to go. I used to go to the park and feed the ducks, and the bread would always run out half-way around the lake. I used to go to the beach and poke the sea anemones at low tide. I have to force myself to believe in those places, and to believe in myself in those places. I feel that I’ve stolen those memories from a passage in a novel. Oh, I say, that’s my son.



Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle‘s work has appeared in publications such as LandfallBest NZ Poemsbroadsheet, and Versal. Her book, Autobiography of a Marguerite, will be published in 2014 by Hue & Cry Press.