SH1B, 20 minutes north of Cambridge

Three poems By Ruby Porter

Out the window          winter’s hardness is just beginning to show

                                       the branches of the poplars seems to curl          inwards

for warmth

I put on the heater but you say you can’t          stand it

                                                 you are always too hot and I am always too cold

what did you mean by that?

                                                                                        you meant           of course          the way I

                                                                                                    curl          inwards

pull over

stop the car

                                       by now you have counted three dead sheep

I wish you wouldn’t point it out but I don’t          say          anything

                                                                                                                  the snow is crunchy-dirty

                                                                                                                  only white from a distance

I sit on the bonnet

for warmth

                                                                                   while you crouch behind a poplar

there are fences everywhere but no houses

                                                                when you introduced me          you called me Claire’s friend

what did you mean by that?

                                                                                                       you meant          of course          there’s no use

                                                                                                                                                     in counting


                                                                the inside of the car is blurring now too

we keep searching          but we only find static

                                                                                                                 I try to turn on the heater again

but you open the window                    you say

                                                                                                   we need to stop breathing the same air

                                                                                                                                      over and over again


pull over

stop the car

what did you mean by that?

                                                                                                   you meant          we’re moving too fast


                                        but it all looks the same to me

          the numbers that go down are just                                                                                         for show

                                                                              when we left that night you only held my hand

                                                                              when we got to the car

                                         I was going to ask where you went but          you say

                                                                                    I am too interested          in           the          degrees

                     between us                     the space                   to cool off

                                                                                    and I should try to be more                          out                     going

                                                                                                                                                                                         over the limit

I want to put my hand on your knee

but I don’t know how to           spread myself           wide enough and

                                                                                                                      you say

                                                                                                                                   don’t bother

this bend in the road is that conversation

                                         your words are tarmac

what did you mean by that?

                                                             you meant          of course             the sign           a few Ks back

                                                                                                                     we must have missed it already.

You send me a link but

it’s broken, your mouth is moving but

the image is silent, miming

yes I can hear

you to a webcam over and over,

I can’t hear you



Words lost in electrical

circuits, voice thin in the air.

It’s like downloading a corrupted file

or walking outside on a February day

and not feeling


anything. It’s like being in someone else’s dream,

the way you sometimes struggle

to scream

when the knife nears. You

lean to close the window.

Leave it open.


Written in an exercise set by Selina Tusitala Marsh, responding to Tusiata Avia's poem 'Cheek'.

Ruby Porter is a prose-writer, poet and artist. She tutors creative writing at the University of Auckland, and in high schools. Ruby Porter is the author of Attraction, which won the inaugural Michael Gifkins Prize in 2018

Your office is in the science building


by the walls of glass and city

where you didn’t grow up

and last week you walked to Sandringham

just to get to know it

outside the library I said

I just wanted to get to know you

but that was months ago now.


You read Foucault while others

taped photos of rocks to the wall

started smoking

then gave it up again.


Yet you can’t stay

your scholarship payments stopped but

your rent didn’t and


Auckland has her fist around you

so tight that for a month

you stopped your walking

slowly going blind

inside your studio apartment.


Next weekend you’re giving

everything away

turning up to the Salvation Army

with years of your life in low cost

black plastic bags.


You cleaned your ceiling with a yellow cloth

it left stains around all the fittings


and the first night I met you

a man punched your nose on Ponsonby Road.

You bled


I tried to wash your denim jacket

in my kitchen sink.


You soaked your overhead grill

with Janola

and scrubbed your oven three times.

This is the stuff

I’m not taking back

your ex’s yoga mat

a pair of brown pants

a mirror


and pans you’re


back in a city that knows you.

You send me photos of the hills.


For the last week you lived

out of one blue suitcase

we washed our forks

between our meals.


They were building a new high rise

beside your window

it’s still empty

I’ve been past it.

You left bruises on this city

they hurt to touch so sometimes

I visit them

just to feel something:


K Road

Myers Park

the new science block


where I Ubered us

you, your mother and I

stranded in a concrete bay.


And there it was

your blue suitcase


in the belly of a bus.


And there I was

slow dancing away from you

towards the square of light

Southern Motorway coiling behind your shoulder.


The sight of you boarding

choked me

the way men have choked me

without asking.

The sight of you leaving

pulled me into the pavement

like a lover.