muscle memory

By the time we are barefoot and dancing to Gwen Stefani on damp carpet,
we’re friends again.

Peach soju spills on my secondhand skirt. In my palm the tambourine bleeds
silver discs. She

flicks through sticky songs, bans the Beatles. I remember doing lines in her cold
apartment, nudged neat

with her library card. For the rest of that night I spoke only French, and called my
ex at dawn.

I know each step of the path home and make sure to drink a litre of water
once I’m in.

The baby wakes up at 7 and I groan back into the world. I make toast. I wash nappies.
I hold him

close, sing ‘High Tide or Low Tide’. He goes down for his nap and I go down
for mine. Later,

I find a Stevie Nicks top for $6 at Vinnies that retails for $200. I try it on but in the
fitting room light

it hangs sad on my bruised body. I don’t know which clothes suit the
shape of me,

and I don’t know anyone with a feijoa tree, one growing so much fruit that they
bring it over

and say take it, I can’t eat all this, which is still the best way I know to
measure my loneliness.

author photo Leah Dodd photographer Ebony Lamb

Leah Dodd grew up in Taranaki and lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Film Studies, and a Master of Arts with Distinction in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in various journals and outlets across Aotearoa. In 2021 Leah was the recipient of the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry for her work during the Masters in Creative Writing. Her first collection of poetry, Past Lives, was published in 2023 by Te Herenga Waka University Press.

Leah comments: 'I like to think of "muscle memory" as a culmination of moments and emotional centres at odds with each other. The lonely joy of being a young parent collides with the rediscovering of a community, while looking back at a not-so-distant past to figure out a future. The poem exists in a starkly liminal space; however, it is a space filled with music and colour and people. It’s a poem that took a long time to write, and it wasn’t until I landed on the form that I noticed it taking shape. Maybe it needed the confinement to contain some of the unruliness in there. "muscle memory" examines different kinds of nourishment, and the ways different selves can fit into a life.'


​Poem source details >



Leah Dodd's website

Leah Dodd's Te Herenga Waka University Press author page

Leah Dodd's essay about the cover of her poetry colletion Past Lives

Paula Green's review of Past Lives


Photographer credit: Ebony Lamb