Three Poems by Paula Harris

The Depressive’s Guide to Gardening

Don’t weed. Look out the windows at the towering weeds.
Hate the weeds. Don’t look out the windows.
Don’t get out of bed. Let the weeds grow taller.
Don’t weed. Feel worse every time you look out the windows.

Look out the dirty windows. Notice that there are almonds
on the almond tree. Look out at the tree every day.
Try to remember when almonds are usually ready to pick.
Remember that they’re ready when the skins start to split open.

Don’t go outside. Look out at the tree every day.
Tell yourself you’ll go out and check them. Don’t go outside.
Look out at the tree one day and realise most of the almonds have fallen.
Don’t go outside. Look out at the tree every day until
all the almonds have fallen. Don’t go outside.
Miss the taste of fresh almonds.

Buy some tomato seedlings. Don’t plant them.
Put stakes into the garden beds. Prepare the soil
with sheep pellets and organic fertiliser.
Plant the tomatoes. Water them every day for three days.
Forget about them. Water them again a week later.
Forget about them. It’s a wet summer.
Look out the dining room window as they grow up the stakes.
Watch the weeds grow with them. Watch the stakes
topple over with the weight of the plants. Go outside.
Look at the handful of tomatoes squashed into the soil. Go inside.

Think “it’s the first day of autumn.” Because it is.
Know that you always feed the citrus trees fertiliser
on the first day of spring, summer and autumn.
Know that there is citrus fertiliser in the garage.
Stay inside. Think “it’s not the first day of autumn anymore” every day.
Because it isn’t. Think about the citrus fertiliser.
Stay inside. Stay inside.
Think “it’s the first day of winter.” Because it is.


I didn’t want to spend the last three months of my life crying over a man (but here I am, with tissues)

maybe we all have this within us:
the desire to timeshift ourselves away from the tears,
to get out early, to save ourselves from the rejection.

there are moments when I think I should’ve moved on
after a month or two, kept myself taut
to the softness of his affection.

I don’t really want that, I just don’t want to be here crying.
I don’t want to have missed the moments when he made me feel.
when he looked at me like I was everything in the world.

there was a night when we were ruined with pleasure
(not yet knowing we’d find the energy to go again)
and I curled into the right side of his body
with my head on his chest and my right arm across his belly

with the fingers of his left hand he traced the lines of my arm,
slid open the spaces between my fingers, circled my elbow.
he rolled me in towards him a little more and we kissed.

I would never want to have missed that.


I give up on love and contemplate guinea pigs instead

I don’t know if I truly believe that guinea pigs are for me;
there are moments of weakness when I’d like to be guinea pigged
and to guinea pig someone in return,
but the realist in me sees how men always see me
as someone to fuck rather than guinea pig

and while I guinea pig fucking
it would’ve been nice to have both sex and guinea pigs
with someone, if not forever, then at least
for a long while

my psychologist says that anger and guinea pigs
are what make us human,
our understanding of these is what helps us grow in our humanity

I guinea pig my Rollie black and gold pony-skin pimp shoes
I guinea pig my charcoal linen sheets
I guinea pig crazy cloud formations
I guinea pig my forearm tattoo
I guinea pig Buffy The Vampire Slayer
I guinea pig fine & raw cacao coconut chunkies
and some days I guinea pig myself

I had a guinea pig when I was young,
a christmas present when I was seven or eight;
her name was Ivory, she was a purebred long-haired albino
and I guinea pigged her with childish delight and neglect

when I was twenty-seven I bought a rabbit;
his name was Gellar, he was a netherland dwarf with siamese sable colouring
and I guinea pigged him more
than I’ve guinea pigged anyone or anything
before or since


Photo Credit: “The Memory Collector” by Fares Micue. Approved for use by the artist only for this collection of Paula Harris’s poem. Any other use of this or her other images for other projects must be approved by the artist. Visit her at either or

About the author

Paula Harris lives in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where she writes and sleeps in a lot, because that's what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award. Her writing has been published in various journals, including Berfrois, Queen Mob's Teahouse, The Rialto, Barren, SWWIM, Diode, Glass, Aotearotica, The Spinoff and Landfall. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric. Visit her website at Find her also on Twitter at paulaoffkilter, Instagram at paulaharris_poet, and Facebook at paulaharrispoet.

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