Sarah Shirley

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Sarah Shirley is a medical student and a mother of two young children. She has a Chinese mum and an English dad, grew up in England, Brunei, and New Zealand, and so is not really sure where she comes from.

Date Night

Maybe when he falls asleep,
we both can sail away –
put a box of biscuits in the cot,
tie a hamster water bottle
to the side. That should hold him
til your mum gets our note:
‘Off to sea. Look after the boy.’

We’ll make a boat from plastic bins,
tied together with rags ripped from the ugly bedcover
I couldn’t afford to throw out.
We’ll have to sit separated, like eggs,
but no matter, we can still talk as we float.
You’ll tell me again about your best golf game
and the drive that went over the hill.

I’ll tell you about how I’m scared of zombies.
Real ones, who rise from hospital beds, but shouldn’t.
We’ll put our feet up on the sides
and rub sunshine on our skin,
we’ll catch rainwater in old coke cans,
and weep when we miss our boy.

And when we hear that roaring crash
of water thundering off the end of the world,
pouring into the universe,
we’ll raise our eyebrows at each other
and say ‘Well, what do you know?’
We’ll clasp hands as churning waves crush our craft
and soar over the edge into stars.


To cure depression
you need a small doctor
and a shrink ray
to make him even smaller.
Down he goes, out of sight,
until he can ride on a dust speck.
Send him into the darkest places
of the brain, and give him torches to light
and set in sconces throughout
to keep the blackness at bay.
Footle around processing centres,
stamping out guilt as he goes.

Travel down, and scatter fizzing sharp things
in the nose and on the tongue
to counteract the dullness.

Then tell him to make a home in the heart
and push up, push up,
with his feet and his arms
with every beat
to help it pump again
against the heavy pull of the world.

First published takahe 87
August 2016