Nikolai Gogol

I want you to know what it feels like
To be walking home alone along bike paths as the fog sets in
Pretending the headlights of cyclists are forest spirits
Weaving through trees
Illuminating fleeting glimpses of faces as death masks
Every crumpled, drying leaf a meditation on life and death
And a decomposing possum more profound than any Gandhi quote.

Alone, saying Kaddish for what was, and never will be
Alone, in the sterile rooms waiting for your name to be called
For your turn with the nurse, then the doctor
Then you’ll pay your money, make nervous jokes with an anaesthetist you’ll never see again
Talking about dead souls by Gogol, how Chekhov died from tuberculosis
And Sartre had some interesting views on socialism
But, he still wrote about forcing a woman to get an abortion
As freedom
You count back from ten
Still thinking about dead souls.

It‘s always difficult to ungrow what has grown
I want you to know what it feels like; swollen breasts and fever dreams
The apple blossoms in spring withering away to brown and garish mush
Stuck to the bottom of your shoe
You keep moving forward, don’t stop for a second, walk to work
But, the blood runs down to knees after three blocks
You’re thinking about the rottweiler attacking your mum’s leg
Down the cul-de-sac when you were a kid.

I ask how you are, yet block out the response
And, alone, the emergency room nurse says you should have known better
That’s what you get for sinning
You’re alone, with the drip of morphine
Alone, dealing with the consequences
Alone, thinking about apples being eaten by birds as soon as they’re sweet enough
Dead souls
Nikolai Gogol
That’s what you get for sinning.

I want you to know what that feels like.

Emily Bourke


Emily is a poet based in Canberra, writing about life and nature.

© 2020