Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Rachel O’Neill’s ‘Leaving the apartment’

Leaving the apartment

Needing ingredients for the meal, I rode the solitary darkness down to the ground floor. I was delivered to a courtyard, which was new to me. This lift of darkness was subtly different from the one I’d traveled up in earlier. The lift across the way was different again, which meant three boxes of night were operating. I set about looking for an exit on this plane, all the while wondering, was the woman who lived opposite me still dancing in front of the television with her son? What would be ideal, I concluded, would be to find the entrance I came in by. Eventually, a door led me to a blind alley where an old man sat cradling the memory of an animal. Back in the courtyard, two women were unenthusiastically painting their apartment. They directed me to a possible avenue to the outside in a language I was almost certain was Hungarian. A woman about my age passed, carrying oranges in a net bag. With an air of justified condescension she assured me in English the exit was just over there. Turn that corner and turn again, she said, and we shall never meet again. That night the sun was poisoned on the hill and darkness rode the lift to my apartment. In my sleep, I devoted myself to leaving the apartment, traveling the night of elevators.

Rachel O’Neill

Rachel O’Neill lives and works in the Wellington region and is currently developing books, films and collaborative projects. They have published two collections of poetry, One Human in Height (2013) and Requiem for a Fruit (2021). As a queer non-binary storyteller Rachel strives to represent the longing for connection and the humour and strangeness that characterise human experience. Being Pākehā, Rachel aims to look unflinchingly at their culture and to work collaboratively with others to reflect meaningfully on intersecting relationships in Aotearoa, past and present. To find out more about their work, visit their website.

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