Friday Poem: Rachel O’Neill’s ‘Almost exactly the love of my life’ Its knots and overlay render me curious

RachelO'Neill

 

Almost exactly the love of my life

On slow days at the office I wrote love letters to myself from the woman who was almost exactly the love of my life. In these letters I, or she – well, ‘we’ – wrote of our desire for me as a passionate explorer might. ‘Once you bring back footage of the moon’s farside,’ she said, ‘there’s no telling what miracles it will perform on the diseased parts of our relationship.’ In these letters she promised not to leave me and was happy to put our life on hold for a year or two of probing research. ‘Why jump into the next phase with reckless abandon?’ she wrote one week. ‘Just because we broke into seventy six terrible pieces last time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try again.’ I came to love the heart and mind that wrote me these messages, overwhelmed at times by their quiet and unobtrusive undercurrent of encouragement. Even now I feel bound to this correspondent as if to a great abiding mystery, such as the inexplicable shifts in our planet’s poles that can push ships onto rocks or that can draw whales as if by leashes onto shore.

 

Astronaut sm

 

Author’s note: This poem is from a series I’m beginning about a character living in an Aotearoa very like ours except that there is considerable Unmanned Moon Exploration activity. The character is engaged in secret work and struggles with not being able to disclose details about the day job to their girlfriend. The character would like nothing more than to debrief, especially about the pressure the team is under to navigate ice fields and bring back soil samples. Over the arc of the sequence the Unmanned Moon Exploration corporation in question goes under and this leads to some disgruntled worker-type protests and raiding of the ‘stationery’ cupboard, which houses pens and pulsating spheres. Oh, and someone frees the Lunar Clones! This poem was recently published in Minarets journal with a host of fantastic poetry by the likes of Hinemoana Baker, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle and Alex Mitcalfe Wilson. Check it out here. There is so much exciting New Zealand writing coming out at the moment and it’s a pretty inspiring time to be a poet.

Author bio: Rachel O’Neill is a writer, artist and filmmaker who lives in Paekākāriki on the Kapiti Coast. Her debut collection of poetry One Human in Height was published by Hue & Cry Press in 2013. You can find out more about what she’s up to on her blog.

Paula’s note: I am reading this piece in isolation—splintered from the series in which it plays a part, but that makes scant difference. It hums and resonates with a fullness of belly, surrealness, questions (is this human?) and a lightness of touch, along with knots and overlay that render me curious. I see this piece as a stack of tracing-paper figures laid one upon each other until they gain surprising life. They merge and separate; they merge and separate (she she she she she). There is a surety of touch in each line. There is an undercurrent of ideas (the power of greater invisible forces, the impact of the big upon the miniscule, the multiplication of ‘me’ through an inked pen, the love of self and the self of love, the recognition and misrecognition of self, the nurturing, fragmentation). Is this flash poetry? Sharp, sudden, luminous? It’s a delight to read so I am hungry for the sequence. I had no idea about Lunar Clones as I read this!

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