I was thirty-three before I learned
people stuck in snow
can die from dehydration.
I would melt icicles
on my tongue for you, resist
the drinking down, drip it
into you. Then repeat, repeat
until my lips were raw.

Deep snow squeaks. We
stop on the Desert Road
because of the snow. You
throw snowballs at the
'Warning: Army Training Area' sign.
I take macro-photographs of
icicles on tussock.

When we drive up the Desert Road
we lost National Radio, we lose
cellphone reception, we lose
all hope. I was thirty-seven before
I considered not trying to always fix
things. I read an article in the New Yorker 
about wabi-sabi – the beauty in the
broken and the worn. The integrity
of the much-used utilitarian object.

But then there was another article
about a woman flying to Mexico
to be put into a coma
so she can wake up mended. It is 
like rebooting a computer, said the doctor.

Despite wabi-sabi, I want that.
To live in snow and not be thirsty.
I want good reception all the way
up the country. I want a shiny, clean
version of myself. Closedown,
hibernate, restart.

Helen Lehndorf studied English at Massey University and Creative Writing at Whitireia Polytechnic, and has been writing, publishing and performing her poetry for 20 years. Her poems, short stories and personal essays have appeared in journals and anthologies and have been broadcast on Radio New Zealand National. She lives in the Manawatu where she works at the Palmerston North City Library.

Lehndorf comments: ‘In this poem I explore the tensions between accepting oneself and yet wanting to improve, or somehow, to start all over again with a clean slate. Whilst fantasising about that 'clean slate', I also accept that the quality of “wabi-sabi” is not possible without the wear and tear of life. In my writing I am always teasing out the ambivalences, contradictions and small hypocrisies which I believe to be very human. I'm more interested in muddy waters than clear ones.’

Poem source details >



The Comforter at Seraph Press