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First date with background apocalypse

compulsively checking the time since your last late
see you soon and tapping between
the same four apps on my phone
like a tiger pacing corner to corner in her enclosure 

I was so deep in my screen
I didn’t notice you coming in for a hug.
I winced into myself like a sea
anemone fingered in a rockpool 

but because you were still hugging me
I didn’t fall off my barstool
just tottered and blinked. eyelash SOS
spelt on your earlobe. you pulled up a chair,  

pretended to understand wine. I liked this
cheeky sommelier persona - you said you could tell
I was a true rosey brute and you were only part wrong
so I let you buy and cheer the notes of honeysuckle. 

I could feel you trying to fit inside my life
like a bumblebee occupying a foxglove.
I toyed with how I might adore
your background hum, your busy arms.

by the next bar I’d made up my mind. I didn’t not like you
but was more attracted to entertaining your interest in me
than anything about you particularly. borrowing your evening
for flirt therapy... I’d gotten proud of not being a romantic 

without really considering what that said about me.
secular heart haughty without higher power -
my faithless cathedral window the swirl of plastic garbage
afloat on the ocean, consuming Pacific light.

 you didn’t notice I’d half drifted off. sloshed
full up with dark and stormy by the time I realised
you unironically expected me to dance, holding out
your soft hands, and I really tried 

not dwelling on the ruined world- all distant
bushfire extravaganza replete with fruitbats swooning
from their trees. I didn’t put disaster chic in my bio
for nothing, baby. my coat of single-use sequins dripped

unseasonable lightning. I cut a shape that was sort of
sensuous oil spill oozing through nightclub
like a penguin in a little black dress
made of petrochemical slick.

and then there was you, arriving in your glass
bottomed boat, a gallant marine conservationist,
ready to get out your toothbrush and preen me.
you promised a catch and release policy

with proper reverence for my threat status.
you paid for the taxi to mine and sat close, combing
your fingers through my knots while I pressed my face
to the window dew. outside my house I pecked you

on the cheek and said goodnight but of course
you followed me up the garden path, and I couldn’t dislodge
your hopeful orbit while I stood to fish for keys,
and you’d come all this way so it felt rude to just tell you to leave 

so that’s how I ended up slipping inside without saying anything
and shutting the door on your face. I even locked the chain
nobody bothers to use, and kept the lights off
so you couldn’t see which room was mine.

eventually my phone gave up on buzzing. I sat
on the shower floor contemplating whether I should shave
my big toes when the water went totally frigid.
I flinched in the shower dome, cursing in my vapors

at whichever of seven flatmates left a hot tap to run
without thinking of my crawl home in the little hours.
ah the special cruelties peculiar to our species.
we should know better than to do so much thoughtlessness 

but we go around all the time just not thinking about it
and fall to pieces but magnificently like peonies
in our total thoughtless lavishness while all the tiny fish in the sea
nibble our washed-off body glitter for dinner. 

- Rebecca Hawkes

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