Content warning for the poem ‘Past tense’: CSA, non-explicit.
A portrait of the artist as…
Feathers. A weight of a necklace of feathers. The incongruity between two opposing forces. Smashed glass against rocks against waves against large cellulose strands. Tears are salty water. There is water in the mineral air. An inorganic decay from organic materials begins at my joints. A list of facts is useful to orient oneself in a new environment. The ocean is said to elicit many kinds of human emotion. I have heard their music. Caught soft melodies on the wind. Metal hands and a metal heart. An empty cavity. Incapable of loneliness. Eyes to process differing hues.
The week it returned I was learning how to inhale
Deeply, when people passed
instead of holding my breath
The words tolerate discomfort
avoidant coping mechanisms
A fluid translucence of feeling
You and me in a crowded party
Holding my hands
It looks like I’m crying
An empty alleyway
Hands on my head
Head between my knees
The week it returned I was learning how to drink on my meds
The first time it happened I didn’t know what it was
Times three to seven
I didn’t have the language to describe
The look of a puppet
What a body part is
Times eight to eleven sound like I have educated myself
Made words into folded shapes
in my brain, my chest
Created portraits in the half shell
Allowed others to season them
The week it returned I was learning how to build a solid narrative
As panic builds
Language begins to look like a cloud
A helium balloon
The most disappointing carnival in the world
About the author:
Eliana Gray is an award winning writer living mostly in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa. Their work is like their life – sad, confronting and deeply funny. They have won the University of Otago Poetry Competition and competed as a finalist in the National Poetry Slam. Their work has been put many places, including their recent debut collection Eager to Break, which is available through Girls On Key Press. You can find them on the internet @foxfoxxfox and sometimes in real life. You can buy a copy of Eager to Break at the Poetry Portal Bookshop.
‘Past tense’ quote/cover photo – Tigh Barrie.
‘A portrait of the artist as …’ – Jessica Thompson-Carr.
‘Past tense’ – Joey Bania.