Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Hannah Mettner’s ‘Breakup poem at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’

Breakup poem at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

In the Grey Room at Auckland Art Gallery

I tell a woman I don’t love her. I tell her via text

with Gretchen Albrecht’s huge painting

of a cloud, a country, occupying my field of vision

completely. The wall behind the painting

isn’t grey at all, but a dazzling, electric blue.

The same blue of Frida Kahlo’s

Casa Azul, which my sisters are visiting—

sending me snapchat selfies of their faces filtered

with flower crowns and monobrows.

I want to love her, and I tell her this, but that

just makes it worse for both of us.

She is my ideal woman—she is my ideal woman

and she has red hair cut with a fringe, so why can’t I

make myself tip over into giddy for her?

What a cunt. Always getting in my own way.

Always striving for honesty but saying something

hurtful instead. The only other person

in the gallery is a young woman reading Anne Carson’s

Autobiography of Red and ignoring the art—

that’s the kind of book you see someone reading

and feel like you know them—

that they must feel the same split-open way you did

on reading it. The problem with me

and the ideal woman is that we like all the same books

but never for the same reasons—

like, we’re always not quite in sync. The problem

with me and the ideal woman

is that we both value our mental health too much

to have the Frida and Diego,

Geryon and Herakles kind of love.

The problem with me is that I want that kind of love anyway.

Why am I like this—

is a question I try not to worry at too often

but I’m asking it now—always putting aside something

good for the myth of something better.

This is a high-stakes way to love—being psycho-

analysed via text in a terracotta-red room

with a thousand painted old people looking down at me

from their gold frames.

Because I don’t want to hurt her feelings

and because I keep hoping my feelings might yet arrive

the conversation goes on too long. She’s right,

I’ve done a bad job because I still want her to like me.

What I should’ve said, she says—

This isn’t working. It’s over.

Hannah Mettner

Hannah is a Wellington-based poet from Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Her first collection, Fully
Clothed and so Forgetful
(VUP 2017), was longlisted for the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and won the Jessie Mackay Award for best first book of poetry. With Sugar Magnolia Wilson and Morgan Bach, she is one of the founding editors of
Sweet Mammalian.

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