From 'Pain imperatives'


You have to look people in the eye, and say ‘oh no’ 
You have to drag your heart across the room like a heavy chair

You have to tell yourself what you need and do the opposite 
You have to be staggered by the cruelty of it


You have to think like this all day in a moisturising facemask 
You have to lie very still and wish you were dead

You have to think ‘love has radicalised me’ and walk around like Helen of Troy 
You have to walk around until the ships burn off


To make a small ugliness large is a grandiose mediocrity 
It’s like the World of Wearable Art

I write this poem like a chastity belt made of bottle caps 
Please don’t blame me for all the terrible things I am about to say to you


It’s a bad crime to say poetry in poetry 
It’s a bad, adorable crime 
Like robbing a bank with a toy hairdryer

I should never do it—and nor should anyone 
But it’s boring to be so tasteful 
It’s like never masturbating to Lucy Liu


I write this poem like double leopard print 
Like an antique locket filled with pubic hair


This is a premature ventriloquism 
Like a séance of someone who isn’t already dead yet

This is a fatal pretension—like hanging yourself with a velvet rope 
I sign it like a death receipt


This is a pyrrhic victory, like falling in love 
It’s like having so little to say, you hire a skywriter to stay home

This is walking out in the middle of a bar fight, your bonnet strands streaming 
You cry and cry, impressing no one


This is like eating pussy with a monogrammed napkin 
It’s a bossa nova cover of the Crimean war

This is an upmarket nonconformity like a Trelise Cooper eco bag 
It’s like a pentagram in your cappuccino foam


This is: stop hitting yourself! 
It’s like pushing pork roast in a vintage pram

This is an empty cuckoo clock, approaching the stroke of midnight 
This is a ransom note with no demands 


Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. She has an MA in poetry from Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the 2011 Adam Prize. Her self-titled debut collection of verse is coming out with Victoria University Press in 2016.

Bird comments: ‘This extract is taken from a longer poem called ‘Pain Imperatives’ which is based on the book length poem ‘Poemland’ by Chelsey Minnis.’

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