Fiction    Reading Room    Memoir    Interview
Ashleigh Young

Afternoon with Jane

Being a friend, Jane said, ‘You’re
the whole package!’
No one had ever
called me a package
before. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m a package,
of sorts.’ Or I hoped to be one,
one day – bundled together, on
my way.
Jane said, ‘Don’t be silly,’ and was beautiful
in the high-backed chair, wearing her enormous black skirt
and crinkly leather boots (like dead balloons, but beautiful
on her particular feet), a thick clot of hematite
beaded round her neck, and her blown-glass hair
in a plait.
It is possible to stare and stare at Jane
who is beautiful in such a way
that one never grows bored
but some do grow sad, in her company.
I stared, and felt myself go
sad – there would be no surprises –
as my resolve opened,
dispatched itself in pieces.
‘Stop,’ Jane said, ‘stop writing
your lists and go out and do
something. Ask out Nose Boy – ask him his name.
Go diving.’
‘It’s hopeless,’ I said, and echoed
‘It’s hopeless,’ because that is the nature
of hopelessness; echoing itself, bending in on itself
through an infinity of selves, like a room
full of mirrors: every surface
mounting another to breed millions more.
‘It is not,’ Jane said, ‘It is not,’ because that is the nature
of hope, she said: it refracts
hopelessness, and fills you –
as a mailroom, piled high with mail –
with many more hopes, all waiting to be posted
into the present tense: it is
a room fat with letters
many wrongly addressed but all destined
to travel –
she said this, my friend Jane,
her explanation gorgeously wrought
but ultimately unwrappable;
she narrowed her cut-glass eyes
as if she thought she could see
the names and addresses
of all the mail bundled in me.
Johanna Aitchison
Michele Amas
Angela Andrews
Airini Beautrais
Jenny Bornholdt
Amy Brown
Lynn Davidson
Emily Dobson
Fiona Farrell
Cliff Fell
Janis Freegard
Helen Heath
Anne Kennedy
Stefanie Lash
Jan Lauwereyns
Vana Manasiadis
Talia Marshall
James McNaughton
Alice Miller
Gregory O’Brien
Frances Samuel
Robyn Schiff
Marty Smith
Elizabeth Smither
Chris Tse
Nick Twemlow
Ashleigh Young   (audio)

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