Reflection on a proposal of marriage

after sharing a 2 for 1 voucher to an exhibition 

I was married once, briefly
to a man I met at the ticketing desk
of the Christchurch Art Gallery.
We kept falling
into each other before
the shadowy figures of
Giacometti. “Hello,”
we said in thin voices—
Standing Woman, a Man 
Walking away. We parted
only to find each other at 
The Glade, The Forest and City Square.
We were a Group of Three Men
my husband and I and our
marriage—each of us turning
away. Before we finally
separated, I offered
my name. “Graham,” he said.
“Thank you.” We shook hands.
He never gave me a ring. 

Alison Wong’s poem, ‘The Archaeologist’, was selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2006, and her collection, Cup (Steele Roberts, 2006), was shortlisted for the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Jessie McKay Best First Book Award for Poetry at the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Her first novel will be published by Picador Australia and UK in 2009.

She was Otago University Robert Burns Fellow in 2002. In 2001 she received a Porirua Civic Award for co-founding and running Poetry Café, Porirua’s live poetry evenings. In 1996 she received a New Zealand Society of Authors/Reader’s Digest Fellowship at Victoria University of Wellington’s Stout Research Centre and a New Zealand Founders Society Research Award. She lives in Titahi Bay, Porirua City, Wellington.

Wong comments: ‘I had a “2 for 1” voucher from The Press but no one to share it with, so at the ticketing desk I asked the first lone person in the queue whether he’d also like to get in for half–price. He replied that this must make us married. We went our separate ways but kept bumping into each other at various exhibits. There was something of the self–consciousness I imagine upon waking with a stranger in one’s bed.

I wonder about the psyche of Giacometti, a man who for many years lived alone and in the barest of conditions. His thin bronze figures (or sometimes just heads) seem like shadows, like dislocated beings appearing from mud. Even his collections of figures seem strangely dissociative. The figures in his ‘Group of Three Men’, for instance, are physically almost touching, yet each is facing and walking away – as if unseeing. (The italicised phrases in the poem are actual names of sculptures.)

Before leaving the exhibition, Graham and I introduced ourselves. We never mentioned surnames and I do not even know how to spell his given name, but thanks, Graham, wherever you are.’

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