In the Square

I sit in the Square before I go      a machine
is trumpeting false snow here 
but it looks true            I am in the kind of country
where shoes leave black holes         where heads leave mist
      where lungs dry out      like money

      if you’re with no one you’re less
      than exhaust
my brother is turning thirty today
I am frisking the lid      off the neck 
      of the bottle I got him
      when a greyhound glides by like a sled      trailing kids

            this drink tastes of      rope-burned hands 
a woman’s jacket huffs itself      into a zorb
      and when I stand      the ashes of pigeons
      rise around me      I am in the Square before the party
in which my brother      is turning thirty

and I am already feeling         up my pockets for my number
for all the girls will be holding            smoke in their mouths
      waiting for a good face   to blow it in       and all the boys
will surely be as pretty      as the lizard Bowie 
and those with bullets         in their chins

will walk off while I’m still      talking to them like I’m just
      the bike they got there on         good news: I don’t need
to tell my feelings         when I drink any more         all the hooks
and worms I’ve ever eaten            passed through me years ago
when I was thirty      they came out shining

I face my hands     who listen      mouths slightly parted, preening
      my brother’s guitar will be starting soon         I was always the first one
to see the waves         could hear them driving
to meet us at the corner      at the first note he sings
      or just after      I’ll recall the song      or think I do

and even though         he was born in water 
and I was born in a bed     I expect that upon entering the room
the crowd will step back         to let me through
      I will remove my hat      my gloves, coat, shoes
I will remove my head, feet, hands      lightening myself to ease the ascent
up the silent cliff     to my brother     first goes my breath, first I pull
hard on my heavy breath

Ashleigh Young lives in Wellington. Her first book of poems, Magnificent Moon (Victoria University Press), was published in 2012. Her poems and essays have appeared in SportHue & Cry and Griffith Review.

Young comments: ‘The speaker in this poem isn’t me, but I suppose he’s someone I can imagine being. He’s not very approachable or friendly and he’d be terrible to live with. He thinks people blow cigarette smoke in his face, but in reality, if you met him, he’d be the one blowing the smoke. He sees himself as both the centre and the periphery of his world, and I wanted that odd dual perception to inform the way he sees things around him. I also wanted him to seem quite muttery, talking to himself in short bursts or sparks, the way that thoughts can come at you in fragments that begin to connect. Even though he’s insufferable, I have sympathy for this guy. He doesn’t want to go to the party, but his love for his brother takes him there.’

Poem source details >



Eyelashroaming, Ashleigh Young’s blog
Victoria University Press author page