Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Elizabeth Morton’s ‘You can’t, always’


You can’t, always


I’m not going to cry. All winter the television

sulks in the corner of our love. You put the lentils

in a colander to flush the ugly bits. You peel oranges

to their pith and talk about your past like it was mine too.

You say it was sunnier in Queens than it could ever be in

an unhappy kitchen with a lover made of feathers.

I want to tell you about the way a man can look down

a corridor, the way a hunter visits his scope. There are things

too big to ever fold into your hands. A barbule is enough

to demonstrate how even soft things fall down,

like small people from towers that trade in shadows.

When I say I need you, it clambers up a stairwell in my throat

like you were the only window left in 110 levels of pain.

I’m not going to say I get it. You toss the lentils

in a brine pot and power-up the television.

You say we spend too much of life watching

the kind of comedies that make you sad. Like Home Improvement

and The Cosby Show that make you think of time

and the way we were happy in Queens

before small people sat on window ledges, before

the hunter’s scope settled on an ordinary bird.

I’m not going to cry. All morning chopping onions,

watching Bill Cosby hug his wife in Brooklyn Heights

before he was a rapist, and before you first registered

towers on the skyline by their absence.

When I say I need you I am a soft thing falling

on something familiar, and it is violence

in the way dispassionate surgery is violence

or the way The Cosby Show is what you get

before you get what you never wanted.


I’ll take what I can.



Elizabeth Morton




Auckland writer, Elizabeth Morton, is published in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the USA. She was feature poet in the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2017, and is included in Best Small Fictions 2016. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, was published with Mākaro Press in 2017. She is completing a MLitt at the University of Glasgow, usually in her pyjamas.





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