All the friends we lost
to self-improvement will come back to us
strangely polished but otherwise the same.
All of the decisions we make in the small hours, to leave, to stay,
will also be correct when we wake again.
The great suction that comes from beneath a passing truck
signifies the velocity of the good life, drawing us near
and when we look back to our dear friends cycling behind us,
their eyes are wide with joy and not terror.
All the friends who avoided us in the supermarket aisles
will embrace us in the vegetable markets.
Our erasure of our social media presence will not be half-hearted.
On this day our city is as a perfect haircut, its losses gently layered
and what is left, falling gracefully.
If I am riding a horse that takes fright and gallops up a hill,
the horse you are riding will also take fright
and we will be carried away screaming together.
Things will follow due process.
Anything lost, only fallen in long grass.
If I can’t see your face it is only because my face
is pressed into your shoulder.
Pictureless walls sing their freedoms
as if they face a new city, new streets, new air.
Silence will lead us into the rest of our lives
which are deep pools where we cannot touch our feet
and cannot move our arms so much,
where we are naked so cannot take so much from each other.

Photo by Russell Kleyn

Ashleigh Young works as an editor in Wellington. Her poetry and essays have been widely published in print and online journals, including Tell You What: Great New Zealand NonfictionFive Dials (UK), The Griffith Review (Australia), and Best New Zealand Poems. She is the author of a collection of personal essays, Can You Tolerate This? (Victoria University Press, 2016), and the poetry collection Magnificent Moon (VUP, 2012).  In 2017 she was awarded a Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction.

Ashleigh comments: ‘I wanted this to be a sort of love poem. And a poem about a slightly deluded but lovely optimism. How strong, how transformative that wish can be, for things to be good, to see something other than what you’re seeing! Sometimes it feels like a superpower. But just to be clear—​I’ve never been able to be this cool when someone has avoided me in the supermarket.

Poem source details >


Ashleigh’s Victoria University Press author page
Ashleigh’s blog
Ashleigh talks to Jesse Mulligan on Radio New Zealand
Five questions with Ashleigh Young on the VUP blog