Photo of someone swimming in blue-green water with the following white text over the top: As panic builds Language begins to look like a cloud A helium balloon The most disappointing carnival in the world

Two poems by Eliana Gray

Content warning for the poem ‘Past tense’: CSA, non-explicit.

Poem over the top of a photo of someone in a white dress sitting at a rose-covered table with candles beside them. The white text over the top says: 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. 

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.

Black background with a person's face. The following white text sits over the top: Past tense 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 Imagine You and me in a crowded party Holding my hands It looks like I'm crying Later An empty alleyway Hands on my head Head between my knees Funny story: 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 Become confused 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

Past tense

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

Imagine
You and me in a crowded party
Holding my hands
It looks like I’m crying

Later
An empty alleyway
Hands on my head
Head between my knees

Funny story:
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
Become confused

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.

Photo credits:
‘Past tense’ quote/cover photo – Tigh Barrie.
‘A portrait of the artist as …’ – Jessica Thompson-Carr.
‘Past tense’ – Joey Bania.

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