The ones who are leaving

You never realise just how fast you are travelling.

There is something about take-off that gives you a hint of it, the way the force pushes you back in your seat, the way so many fingers grip at armrests, this unintentional and collective human twitch as bodies brace to be cannon-shot into the air. Up – and away from where they have been. Or, for others on board, toward their destination.

You feel it briefly at the start, of course. The acceleration of your leaving – or going. For the rest of the flight, velocity is not so obvious a companion. For the most part you’re flying, and you don’t feel a thing.

Except for the ones who are leaving.

I think about the ones who are leaving. How they travel in the exact same direction as everyone else on board. And yet, even as they face forward, even as they track their course, it’s not the same path at all. Not when they have left so much of themselves back there, on the ground.

For the others, for those suspended and flying toward someone or somewhere better, does it feel slower still, these waiting hours? As they get closer to where it is they want to be? Who is having the more difficult time up here in the air with me, right now? The heavy-hearted, looking back – or the light, straining toward their destination?

And me, just which one of these am I today? This question I cannot answer at 30,000 feet, no more than I ever could on the ground.

Am I finally on my way now, or is this just another leaving?

The middling people push back their chairs and snore, but I’m wide awake now, and racing. My heart or my mind, it’s impossible to say which comes first, who takes or hands over the baton that I clutch. And start running.

You’re flying, not running! I remind under my breath, but I know better than most to not confuse truth with the facts.

A fact. I’m heading toward the wide and offering unknown – definitely coming. A fact. I’m leaving the heart-constriction of my present, muddled life behind – definitely running away.

The truth. It is possible to do both, and at the very same time.

(My heart and mind merely loop the track now, with a nod as they pass each other).

Plastic has stopped rattling. Trays are set down. The snoring softens. As the cabin dims, I reach into my bag for my phone; I stare at the screen and that last message all over again. A reflexive stare, yet hopeful and breath-held too. As if something might have recalibrated since the last time I looked, as if the words and letters might have rearranged themselves into something better than the single line sent and received as I boarded the plane.

The text right there, stark and simple. The letters fully formed, unchanged. I missed you. Past tense.

I missed you.

As if he already knows I am gone.


 ‘Into the After’ is taking shape. Word by feeling by word. I forgot just how much of writing a novel is heart excavation. 

The possibility of you

The possibility of you sustained me over lifetimes. Through every lonely, dusty summer, and the tempest of our winter nights. Season upon season of your warmth and withholding. Such famine and feastings of the heart, endured.

The famine and feast my heart endured.

(That cracked continent under my skin, owing all its hungers to you).

You. The possibility of you. And me there with my finger held high, hoping I might read the weather. Will I need to wear my boots today? Will you open the door; will I be let in? When I fall, shivering into your arms, will it ever be both of us shaking?

Or will you always be colder than I remembered.

No matter now. All of that breath, and all of the holding. Now I’m ready to let it go. I’m ready for this slowest, saddest season. As I finally replace the possibility of you. With what you say – and what you do.

Balloon Girl, Red Heart by Banksy

The Girl with the Red Balloon – Banksy

(I love you. But I don’t want you anymore)

When I am here

From: Maggie Valentine <>

Subject: You

Date: 27 March 2010 00:46:00 AM AEDT



You pulsate through even the question of what to have for dinner.

You are trapped deep in my nerve, Mack. You have spread under the surface of my skin like a bruise. You are the slick sliding down my neural pathways. The snap and lock and spark that causes the lights to blow when I flick a switch.

You are the click of my land mines before they explode. The flavour I taste when my mouth is empty. You are the moment before I come, all taut and jangled nerve, more acute and curious than the consummation.

You are my own teeth on lip, the ache of my breast. You are the inexplicable detachment of mind to body, so that my head is there when I am here.

You are the memory of muscle, the quickening of my blood. You are the juice that flows through me and makes me wet when I have not even noticed the weather.

You who loses no sleep over me, who turns to another and makes your bed every morning (and the nights I cannot bear to think of).

You, who cannot know how far and completely I have fallen.

M (Your Valentine)

Rock Bublitz at body, remember by Joanne Piechota

Image by Joanne Piechota


To sink under slowly

The feeling is immediate under my toes. A sensation of sinking in, of earthing myself. The sand starts warm and soft underfoot, and closer to the water it becomes damp and hard, leaving my footprints in a trail behind me.

I scratch a crooked heart with my big toe and watch as a wave licks at it, then washes it away. A pang – is that how easily we lose something? I look out, fix on the moment where sky and sea merge, and I feel a kind of horizon ache. A sadness that expands before me.

If you are here right now with me Ben, you are the anchor, the thud that brings me back.

I keep walking, letting the last slide of each wave wash over my feet. We acclimatise to the coldness best in this way, inch by inch of skin, no surprises. I have never understood people who run toward the water, who dive straight in.

I have always been one to sink under slowly.

 – Anna, The Memory of Stars 

Beginning … again

It’s vacation time! For the next two weeks I’m replacing words with sun, sea and a cocktail (or seven!):

Oahu Sunset

“See” you when I get back. I’ve packed ideas for my new novel People Like Us in with my swimsuit, so I guess I’m not really leaving words behind … hope to have something to share with you when I get back!

“My word. My word for the year Tash’ died was – last.” ~ Elliott, People Like Us.

And so it begins again …


… This name that was mine from the beginning.

In every beginning an ending is written.

It is one of the very first things I told you. When I would lie naked in your arms, spinning my stories. The mind of a poet, and the body of a goddess, you once said against my chest – and I wrapped this description like a gift. It was rare for you to be so gracious with your definitions, Mack.


I did not know that it would end like this.

Mack and Mabel lyrics by Jerry Herman

(It was so easy to name you. I knew him. And then I met you. The recognition was instant.

And you never, ever did send me roses. Just like I forgot to keep my head.)