The Drop Distance

After we leave the cinema
I can still hear the hanging,

his breath sucking
the black cotton hood
audibly onto his lips.

During the storm that night
our ponga split,

the albumen flesh
caught on a power line.


When my parents went
through that bad patch

I made a community out of plastic
horses, a corral of bottle top fences,

a proud forest of milk carton trees.
At night I would play by torchlight.

Years later when studying Plato
I thought about shadows;

how we project them,
indistinguishable from the real thing.

Sarah Jane Barnett was born in Canterbury in 1977 and now works as a heritage professional and writer in Wellington. Her work has appeared in a range of literary journals, such as LandfallSportTakahe and JAAM and on the e-zines Blackmail PressDeep SouthSnorkel and Turbine. During 2006 Sarah completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is currently finishing her first book.

Barnett comments: ‘The title of the poem refers to The Drop Distance Table, a document used by the US Army to calculate the drop necessary to successfully hang a man based on his weight and height. Although the poem was sparked by my strong reaction to the film Capote, since studying Plato’s simile of the cave I have always been interested in the way we create our own reality, to the point where we believe our own illusions. It was the first piece of philosophy that truly made me question my reality and also gave me an understanding of why literature can be so powerful.’

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