Tuesday Poem: ‘Afternoon with Jane’ by Ashleigh Young

Afternoon with Jane

Being a friend, Jane said, ‘You’re
the whole package!’
No one had ever
called me a package
before. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m a package,
of sorts.’ Or I hoped to be one,
one day – bundled together, on
my way.

Jane said, ‘Don’t be silly,’ and was beautiful
in the high-backed chair, wearing her enormous black skirt
and crinkly leather boots (like dead balloons, but beautiful
on her particular feet), a thick clot of hematite
beaded round her neck, and her blown-glass hair

in a plait.
It is possible to stare and stare at Jane
who is beautiful in such a way
that one never grows bored
but some do grow sad, in her company.
I stared, and felt myself go

sad – there would be no surprises –
as my resolve opened,
dispatched itself in pieces.
‘Stop,’ Jane said, ‘stop writing
your lists and go out and do
something. Ask out Nose Boy – ask him his name.
Go diving.’

‘It’s hopeless,’ I said, and echoed
‘It’s hopeless,’ because that is the nature
of hopelessness; echoing itself, bending in on itself
through an infinity of selves, like a room
full of mirrors: every surface
mounting another to breed millions more.

‘It’s not,’ Jane said, ‘It’s not.’ That is the nature
of hope, she said: it refracts
hopelessness, and fills you –
like a mailroom, piling high with mail –
with many more hopes, all waiting to be posted
into the present tense: it’s

a room fat with letters
many wrongly addressed but all destined
to travel –
she said this, my friend Jane,
her explanation gorgeously wrought
but ultimately unwrappable.
She narrowed her cut-glass eyes
as if she thought she could see
the names and addresses
of all the mail bundled in me.

Ashleigh Young is a writer and editor living in Wellington. I saw Young read at this year’s Best New Zealand Poems and at her acceptance of the 2009 Adam Foundation Award in Creative Writing. She is an enviable talent, writing poetry and essays (she won the 2009 Landfall Essay Competition) that are gentle and funny but address painful subjects. For example Young’s Masters thesis revolved around people coping with physical or social awkwardness. After doing a little research I’ve found that Young’s work has appeared in various editions of Sport since 2003 and her bio on BNZP states her work has “appeared in BooknotesTurbineSport, and Landfallso she has been working toward her recent success. If you want to read another one of her poem’s I suggest Visitations on BNZP 2004.

You can enjoy other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘Afternoon with Jane’ by Ashleigh Young

  1. Beautiful poem. I love the story of it and the conversation. With all the realism it still seems immense.

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