Emma Barnes Click to

BarnesEmma Barnes was born in Christchurch in 1980 and has lived in Wellington for four years. She lives in a historic house that was once a post office in Aro Valley, Wellington. She studied English Literature at Canterbury University and works for New Zealand’s favorite internet company. Emma has been previously published in JAAM, Landfall, Trout, Snorkel and other journals and magazines. She has also been selected for Best New Zealand Poems, in 2008 and 2010. She writes a blog about poetry.

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We make out awkwardly on the bed.
And her shifting weight is a tide or the back of the bus.

Have you seen her lately?
Not since she moved out.

When we go to a costume party together she
wears a lycra body suit and duct tapes a dildo

to her crotch. It bumps against me in the darkness
like a bottlenose dolphin or a chair-lift.

Outside the party she kisses me again, her
costume insistent. She has been dead for

two and a half years. She lay down to sleep
at thirty-six and her heart failed. Like it

failed a test or failed a warrant or failed to
come in to work that day like everyone else.

My fingernail split down to the cuticle and
she climbed into my bed at dawn smelling

of chemicals and the last stand of the hospice.
She moved out on my birthday and I ripped

up the note she wrote. I ripped up the note
she left me that she wrote me, when she left.


Note: A warrant is short for a Warrant of Fitness, which is a regular examination a motor vehicle has to pass to be roadworthy.

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3 Responses to Ohio

  1. Jdot. says:

    Firstly, I am intrigued and impressed by the two line stanzas, but I can’t understand them or put their meaning into any terms that would make sense. I like how the poem fades in and out, between specifics and feelings, and between a person and a ghost. I also like how two such simple actions– the asking of the neighbor if Emma had seen her lover, and the ripping up of the note– were two central, emotional cruxes of the poem. This was my favorites of the ones I’ve read so far.

  2. Marjorie Power says:

    I like the phrase “her costume insistent” because it makes the lover sound as if, in a way, she had already become a ghost. An interesting way to foreshadow her death. And the description of the death itself startled me, jolted me into the sudden surprise of her absence. The last line is perfect, the way it conveys the narrator’s obsession with this lover’s departure and exactly how that feels.

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