Poetry Shelf Favourites: Chris Tse’s ‘Midnight, somewhere’

Midnight, somewhere

The night remembers how I made myself smaller
every time I left a mess trailing behind me—
running from the obsessive thoughts I couldn’t evade
even at midnight when I donned my counterfeit
mask to dodge my ghosts and monsters. I folded,
shrunk and compressed to fit into those slow hours
hoping it would allow me to step into joy without
being throttled by a cold open—the Previously on…
that prefaces all my terrors. I should’ve introduced
this poem with a disclaimer: Based on true events.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely
intentional. Then maybe I’d forgive myself for making
a montage with all the memories I’ve deliberately
dissected and over-analysed so I can’t return them
while they’re still warm and lit by a blood moon
while I have the time and space to worry myself sick
while I stare at my reflection and see only the past.
Sometimes the past is us watching the ‘Blank Space’
music video and me telling him I want to be that horse.
(Now I see this fantasy meant I wanted to be an accessory
to someone else’s power.) Other times the past is playing
‘Treacherous’ on loop for a week straight because he
wouldn’t return my calls. I wanted so badly to ask
the million-dollar question knowing all too well
any answer would leave me broken. It’s always
close enough or not enough when you’re constantly
running late for a rehearsal for the worst night
of your life. I like to eat alone, or go to the movies
on my own and not have to fret about having opinions
or critical thoughts to share while the credits roll.
I imagine this is the kind of thing my popular twin
would be very good at—knowing what insightful
things to say to make everyone in the world fall in love
with them. Instead I’m the sad song you only listen to
when you need a good cry in the colourless dark.
Night won’t always let me let go, but it also reminds me
of other brighter fevers: karaoke in Portland, hands
clasped under the table at Vegie Bar, the waves crashing
outside our window in Mataikona. He tried to wake me
to watch the sunset from our bed but my head was
in knots, counting down the days we had left.
Not everything gets clearer with the lights on or when
the sun comes up. It’s always midnight, somewhere.

Chris Tse

Written for Around Midnights, a seminar featuring responses to Taylor Swift’s Midnights. The seminar was organised by Victoria University of Wellington Senior Lecturer Dougal McNeill (School of English, Film, Theatre, Media and Communication, and Art History).

Chris Tse is New Zealand’s Poet Laureate for 2022-24. He is the author of three collections of poetry published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of the 2016 Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry), HE’S SO MASC, and Super Model Minority. He and Emma Barnes edited Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa (AUP, 2021).

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