One Summer: Orcas in the Bay 

by WES LEE

 

 

We began excitedly moving out of the sea —

not in a furious tumble the way 

we would at the sight of a shark.

 

Lines of cars stopped on the road, 

people climbing out to raise their hands 

above their eyes.

 

A swirling fracas as they thrashed under the waves. 

The huge male surfacing in front of us barely

ten feet away.

 

‘Probably hunting something. Most likely stingrays,’

someone said.

 

And after, it felt as if we’d been pumped with helium.

As if earth’s gravity had loosened its grip 

and all the parts of us were trying to lift off. 

 

Telling the story again.

Wanting to hear it from each other’s lips; 

provoking each other to embellish it.

 

Polishing each aspect.

Then we set it down.

 

 

 

Awarded 2nd prize in the Takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize judged by Elizabeth Smither. Published in The Beach Hut, January 2020.

The Girl in the Basement / The Boy in the Basement

By WES LEE

 

 

And I wanted to be the girl / in True Detective / Catatonic / 

Cared for / in the perfect institution / the place where 

horror is mediated / The girl / 

rescued / and loved forever / The girl swept up in the arms 

of the detectives / who have never witnessed such horror / 

I wanted to be taken up by the protectors / 

passed from hand to hand / to be that girl forever / And I 

wanted someone to listen / I wanted 

to be turned around like a / precious / piece of glass ... of something / 

I wanted to be handled / with care / 

And I suppose I wanted people to look at me / the way they do 

on TV / with a rare quality / as if I was rare / and what I’d been 

through was so rare as to render me / priceless /

The wan girl / in the oversize cardigan / 

the rescued girl / The girl who is found years after / The girl

who escapes / and comes home and her family / have kept 

her bedroom untouched / and they treat her / 

as if each day is Christmas /

And I wanted to be the boy who lies / who returns home disguised 

as the boy who vanished / and even when they find out / they 

still keep calling him by the name / The name of the boy 

who vanished.

 

 

Selected as a finalist in The Geometry/Open Book National Poetry Competition 2018 by Anna Livesey and Sophie van Waardenberg, and first published in Turbine /Kapohau 2018 (The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifesaving

By WES LEE

 

 

They don’t do it anymore, 

breathe into the mouth to save.

 

We had learnt it reluctantly, 

lined up beside a recumbent dummy,

 

waiting to take our turn to kneel at that mouth.

The simplest things disturb – 

 

at night when the fluoros shut off and the cover is pulled,

the tiles swabbed – there it lies open,

 

not even a ventriloquist’s dummy 

is so exposed.

 

 

 

 

2nd place winner in The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2015 – judged by Tristram Fane-Saunders and Holly Howitt-Dring.