We talk about sex poems

You tell me about a pair of women’s underwear
fluttering from a military installation,
the lacy knickers waving a surrender or a covert revolution maybe.
It’s hard to write well about sex. And heartache.

I need someone a little bit broken to hold me tonight
while the party rages opposite, while Dominic strips down
to his underwear and shows everyone his tattoos:
Pain equals progress. The way his bones are breaking down too.

I ask what you want – it’s been a long time
and I don’t know the terrain of your body.
You don’t ask for anything
but say things the grown children of explorers might.

Now, I want to stop, switch on all the lights
deprive my own nerve endings
so my eyes can lick you like a sweet-toothed cartographer
then store you away carefully, carefully in special paper.

There are many hollows in the body where water could be held
the clavicles, the indentations in the belly,
the spaces between the ribs –
long cool glass of water is a dumb thing to say so I keep it quiet –
the reverberations in a cave.

When there is more space – a room’s length now –
I open my eyes wide.
Your legs are too long for metaphors
your ass some inconceivably high and unnamed planet.
There are bullet-holes too, from Trinidad and Tobago maybe,
the US, Blackwater maybe.

I need someone a little bit broken
so, put your fingers high up inside me
and rock me like you would a cradle.
I drown out the sounds of the party and the poetry
and the crows outside these hotel windows.

I don’t know where these things flew from or what sadness
they brought with them, but I saw an ibis
bobbing through the mall outside the always-empty Nepali
restaurant that sells twenty-one types of parmigiana.
It will be OK, there is enough of the sacred here.

There are moments in the dark under your weight
when I know my hip-bones are much closer to the surface
than the last time I lay like this with a man.
In the morning I hold you for the last time.
It has taken nine years from first kiss to this.

Let me hold you, lover, because in nine years I’ll be sixty
and you will be nearly three score and ten
and the hollowing out that has begun on both our beauties
will have taken us into a new kind of broken.

I have seen statues like you: Ramses and other rulers
and I have entered buildings and heard people gasp
and leap to their feet as if they should.
And I’ve swept out again in my Rasta queen dress with the train.

I have spent a good deal of my sex life
soothing my manifold partners
but for you, this soothing soothes me too
soothes my hollowing, the way my flesh has fallen from me
the way it reminds me of my father’s
the way his bones rose like nature’s excavation of fossils
once all the flesh has gone and all the earth
that covered the bones has gone too.

It is at the door, after we have said goodbye,
after I have closed the door
and you have walked away down the hall like Ramses
that my broken breaks open.
Great fissures run through me
into the floor, down past the lift shaft
and through the underworld into Fortitude Valley.

Tusiata Avia has published four collections of poetry: Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Bloodclot, Fale Aitu | Spirit House and The Savage Coloniser Book. Her children’s books are Mele and the Fofo, The Song and Rat and Octopus. Tusiata’s first book, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, is also a multi-award-winning theatre production for six women; most recently garnering the 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year at Off-Broadway theatre, Soho Playhouse, New York City. The recipient of a number of awards and writers’ residencies, Tusiata most recently received a 2020 Arts Foundation Laureate (The Theresa Gattung Female Arts Practioners Award) and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.

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Photo credit: Hayley Theyers Photography