If Katherine Mansfield Were My Best Friend

‘It was only when she came out of the tunnel into the moonlight or by the sea or into a thunderstorm that she really felt herself.’

– Katherine Mansfield, ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’ (1921)



She would teach me how to apply winged eyeliner
in a moving vehicle.

She would write long, passionate texts to her high-school crush,
then screw up her eyes and ask me to press ‘send’
quickly before she changed her mind.

She would let me borrow her vintage coats,
her bright silk scarves, her oversized sunglasses
and her Frida Kahlo socks.

When I’m in the middle of a break-up
she would come over when I can’t get to sleep
and we would sit on the floor eating Russian fudge
watching documentaries about serial killers.



once we’d saved up enough money
we would go see the cherry blossoms like she always wanted to
and drink chrysanthemum tea beneath the moon
and we would climb mountains that look
just like the mountains in Chinese paintings
and we would sit on the cliff edge
eating mangoes out of our hands
dangling our feet into the clouds



then we would move cities / then countries / at the beginning we would write / then we wouldn’t anymore / but sometimes I’d get an email from an unknown address / (subject line: MAGNOLIA FLOWERS) / and then we’d collide / by a river in Shanghai / or on a crosswalk in New York / and we would spend one sunburst afternoon / running through art galleries / watching dogs at the dog park / taking pictures of each other’s / shadows

the years would pile up / and she’d get harder to find / but I would always remember that one New Year’s Eve / when we were young / when she decided not to turn up to her own party / sneaking out instead to light sparklers / and swim naked in the cold sea / white-gold fireworks / exploding like lightning / in the sky over the harbour / lights blooming in her eyes


Nina Powles is a writer and zinemaker from Wellington. She is the author of Girls of the Drift (2014) and Luminescent (2017), both published by Seraph Press. She is poetry editor at The Shanghai Literary Review and currently lives in London.

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