Summer Reading Series: Two poems by Louise Wallace

New fiction, non-fiction and poetry by Aotearoa writers to read over the summer. This week: Louise Wallace.

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Each week over the summer we are posting new fiction, non-fiction and poetry by Aotearoa writers. This week, two poems from Louise Wallace. 

Read the rest of the series:
'Drunk Girls' by Helen O'Connor
'How To Die' by Jo Randerson
Two poems by Vaughan Rapatahana

Right of return

1.  You were born in a church.
2.  You are carrying an oversized backpack.
3.  You have to send proof of purchase.
4.  You did not keep the receipts.
5.  It did not seem a big deal at the time.
6.  You cannot take back being born.
7.  You cannot take off the backpack.
8.  You cannot just take off either.
9.  You try to escape your own skin.


The film version

I am so much more familiar
than I ever wanted to be.
Strangers caress
the white underbelly
of my forearm.
Beer pools
on an all-night vinyl couch.
I am asleep inside my collarbone.
I specialise in leaving
break-up messages for men
I don’t know how to flirt with.
If anyone can reconcile this
with the rest of my life,
please call me.
I am drawn to tiny things
only then I can’t find them.
Men in plastic slippers
shuffle down the alley; 
shisa perch
on iron gates.


'Right of return' and 'The film version' appear in Louise Wallace's third collection, Bad Things, which is available from Victoria University Press. Of the poems Wallace said: 'The tone of "Right of return" seemed off to me and I couldn't find a fix, until my editor Ashleigh Young suggested a pronoun change from first person to second. Suddenly it had an entirely different feel, it almost seemed like a video-game narrative to me. A great suggestion! I lived in Japan, or more specifically Okinawa, for a couple of years in my early twenties. I've never fully managed to capture or process that experience in my writing. "The film version" is my latest attempt.'