Ashleigh Young

Driven

I grew up in a small team
one hour’s drive from a phonebox.
It’s easy to drive for an hour but having to

makes the trip forlorn. We were close-knit
enough to hammer each other
down into the wood. Some developed

a pallor, some crawled under
the bracken in pairs. Each of us eyed
up the other’s workboots. One of us

stole another away in a wheelbarrow
the body concealed beneath clippings. I drove
off alone in the first draft of a morning

resting in the designated areas, where
the picnic tables were still leaving their
tree selves behind. Why are we always guided

to park beside a bridge? Planners
must know we need a river in order
to sleep. I admit for nights I slept in my car.

*

I could have been lonely
in the communication channel, if not
for the bats, whom I flushed from the air

with my publications, and kept. I thought
on my feet. I slept on the floor.
I scraped fresh materials from the walls.

My strengths built upon one another
like strata. My knowledge base
once tender, became thick with callouses

as I walked, and ran, and scaled
the channel’s quiet, bats echolocating
from my hair. I built from this

a serviceable shelter, which I steadied
with bricks, and put some lights in
and lived in, and didn’t let rust.

*

I grew up in a small team that has since
been built over. No two days were the same.
It’s the spook of a dream: how I’d leverage

each day onto a table and cut out
its environments. How ready and glistening
they came out. With my mouth pressed

to a projector, my heart commissioned
the text. I would catch a worker and lift them
with a deadline to redraft their skin.

It wasn’t taught, how not to be violent.
How not to enter a building and plant
fast-growing trees underneath it.

But you can learn how to be wanted.
I am learning. My body, too, reports to the soil.
I can work alone. I can work with others.

 

 

Ashleigh Young (Wellington, NZ) recently spent two years as an academic editor in London and is now trying to scrape together a living as a freelance editor in Wellington. Her writing appears in Sport, Turbine, Hue & Cry, and in her first book Magnificent Moon (VUP), which was included in the Listener's Best Books of 2012. Later this year she will be teaching a creative nonfiction course with science writer Rebecca Priestly at Victoria University. Ashleigh curates the ad-hoc project Twitter Poetry Night (@PoetryNightNZ) and blogs at eyelashroaming.com.