1. Total Eclipse
Confronted by my loneliness I throw myself into art and money.
I buy half a gallon of milk, far more than I need.
I am new in this country and I cannot control the sizes.
Yesterday I decided I didn’t like the country
and then I decided I did. Both of these positions are defensive.
There are conflicting opinions about milk, of course,
but either way the planet won’t survive.
At the book fair I felt I had to buy something to make sure
I still existed.
I was served by a girl with pink hair and a dress covered in balloons.
But when was the last time you or the girl saw a balloon?
Sometimes the idea of meeting up is better than meeting up.
And so we’ve never met.
A community building has separate entrances for men and women
which is not surprising, but somehow it is.
Most of my favourite poems are ones that feel like a bucket
being emptied out, but not tonight.
Tonight I am writing a poem about an eclipse
I haven’t seen.
When he arrives he takes off his pants
and listens to jazz.
He says there is no hope for journalism but there is a machine by the beach
that gives out free suntan lotion.
I am not admitting certain things to myself
because I don’t know how to describe them.
Instead I use the word lonely.
Oh, how I adore these failing
this hotbox of emotional uncertainty,
as we, poised on sunloungers,
watch barechested militia men
dive beyond the rocks. A rotting palm tree
adds atmospheric lighting. The chef blows hot coals
with a hairdryer. The weather is savoury
Oh, admire the lines of my
Why do we call them tan lines and not time straps?
Yes, there were years I cared but there
were other years I tanned.
Car horn. The light slap of flip flops
across the restaurant floor. The rainbow-painted
ferris wheel of the luna park, which
kept turning through the war.
Oh, please take the sunbathers
to the Hague.
These are not my stories.
I don’t want them anymore,
pressed against my teeth –
the wicked, prickled bubbles
of a burnt tongue.
NJ Stallard is a writer, editor and poet. Her writing and poetry has been published in Tank Magazine, Broadly, PN Review and Ambit.