This is how it started—Three cautionary tales


you are in a photographer’s studio                playing

(boy)friend and imaginary (boy)friend

here’s editorial suntan           here’s the hottest looks of

the summer as determined by            sponsored content

and a committee of tasteful eyes             we need to          move                      

as much                of this         pineapple print        as we can     

pineapples are in                again              (just one more season)

in between looks            you chit-chat        and inexplicably

you end up attempting to describe the shape of the sky

as if                this is the sure-fire way to win him over

he listens          nods politely and makes himself a cup of tea

at the catering table

a tea               how many male models drink tea on shoots?

he says he’s certain you’ve met before at a house party

two real summers ago            and he’s right

but he’s mistaken you for the friend you went with

the friend who dove off the roof into the pool

resulting in a trip to A&E and a very broken arm

you have seconds to counter or supplement

his version of events           before an assistant interrupts

and you go back to your pretend summer in July

your fake life           flashing before your eyes


this time                      you are in a sex club

filled with angry bees                   you are a warped

disinterested man             in town on business

slowly jerking off a stranger you’ve just met

who reminds you                   of a fresh tar seal

when he lifts his eyes to catch yours        you look away

because eye contact puts you off your A game

at least that’s what you tell yourself             the truth is

you’d rather just get on with it           without every moment

having to mean something                       you do not want

and you do not wish          especially not        in this dimly lit

concrete room          but who are you to deny a gentleman

a generous handjob when the opportunity presents itself?


then love leaves you        real love        not fake like the movies

a development that has you living like a monster under a bed

half hungry/half afraid          inside you are            tide marks

keyholes and foreign currency        and you

make room to start again                   shift only          when your eyes

have something         to fall upon to shock your heart into dancing

like a bolt of blue                    stealing away    into a brighter man’s

disco anthem           bloodstained teeth rinsed

summers on repeat               all those times you ached

only serve to remind how     you never got to kiss the boy

next door        no matter                 how many times you

cast your rabbit’s foot into the lake



Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, which won the 2016 Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry. His second book, HE’S SO MASC, will be published by Auckland University Press in early 2018.