The year I let my heart go asunder
Scraping into the basin with both hands
I let the waves lap against them,
pushing my giant hands to and fro.
The waves are gentle and they make my hands bob
like moths do when they're not being harassed by lights.
I am crouched down on the bank of Wellington Harbour
and I am huge as the hills.
I am squatting with my bottom on Khandallah,
my feet in the harbour and the water barely splashing my ankles.
When I stand, I am wondrous.
Get back! I want to cry out
at the men in their cars and their ships and their helicopters
Get away, don't look.
I push them, but not with my hands
just with my mind,
not hurting them but just bending –
bending them with my mind until they go.
Carolyn DeCarlo lives in Aro Valley, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, with a menagerie of humans and pets. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her chapbook ‘Winter Swimmers’ appears in good company with Rebecca Hawkes and Sophie van Waardenberg in AUP New Poets 5, edited by Anna Jackson. She is a co-founder of the Wellington-based reading collective, Food Court. She is kind to animals.
DeCarlo comments: ‘I am a feminist, and this poem quite directly came from thinking about what it means to be a woman and a feminist alive in this world. The speaker finds herself magnified – exposed, and under scrutiny – crouched on the bank of the Wellington Harbour. She’s physically in a position of helplessness, but her size and power are terrific, as seen when she stands up. She’s not angry; all she really wants is serenity. She wants to be alone, away from the watchful gaze of men, but she’s not willing to hurt them. She finds it difficult even to shout at them. I think this is a common feeling among women, especially those in positions of power and those who label themselves as feminists, that they are perceived by some men as dangerous or hostile when they are just trying to live their lives.
‘I’d like to think if I were as tall and huge as the speaker here that I would crush everything and destroy everyone and take revenge on anyone who has ever stared at me or commented on my appearance or touched me without my consent... but I think the reality is that most of us would probably respond as gently as she does.
‘I thought this poem was pretty obvious and evocative and like, unpacked itself, but one cis white man I spoke to at a reading thought it was a piss take on the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (and therefore hilarious) so I guess it’s more divisive than I thought.’
Photographer credit: Tabitha Arthur.