Junk Store Girl - Rachael Elliott

The back room smells of 
Pledge and regret.
Cabinets hang without their
finishes marred
by 2cent stickers
covered in black ink
to mark their worth
The shop has clothes
from 94 different houses
bringing 94 different dusts
and the skin from
countless others
hiding in the seams.
Each garment
is a story that no one will hear
but you can smell them if you
lean close and breathe quietly.
They waft in, bags
tied with knots
bags split
bags flow over
clothes drip from the bins
try to slip their secrets
but people stuff
smash them in.
I bought a denim jacket once
with a stitched on label
and artful rippings.
There was $20 and an empty
plastic baggie in the 
inside pocket.
No one asked her story.
I loaded my car with Grandma’s
white woollen jacket
and her basket of silk scarves.
I wanted her stories for myself
but they would not tell.
My lover wears
chatty clothes with
neck stained collars
He makes their stories his own.
He quit me 
to live there with them
in the past.

The only heartbeat I hear
is the one that slips beneath
the music
from the shadow box.
My toes are on the edge.
Today I bought
a handmade purple dress
tailored to my form.
I wondered if a mother loved her daughter
and made it herself
I wondered if it had commission.
I wondered if the girl who gave it up
was quit too.
The only thing you ever brought me
was a necklace from the rubbish pit
where you scavenge people’s pasts.
It quit someone to find me
swing from my neck
tangle in my hair
My clothes wear someone else
and hide their stories in me until I am
filled with black lettered clicking.

Hunting - Rachael Elliott

My hands covered you like the dark
stuck fast along the length
of our fingers.
Your feathers fell to one side,
stirred with my breathing.
I felt the map of your wrist
touch mine
lines sinking into each other
like dust into crevices
why can’t I look at you?
I followed your folded future hand
along the dunes
dodging gorse, thistles, brown glass shards
I laid myself down
with them and your kisses
as a covering.
Your eyes reflected the moon.
I couldn’t touch you
as you filled me with the gush of sky
as if it was shot
and laid its head
beside yours
on my shoulder
But I licked the rain from your face.
I was a shell
buried in your foot
and you needed me there
as we staggered
though water that fell and hissed in the sand.
Why don’t you need me now?
As the thunder buries itself in the sky
the rain becomes your hands
but the ground does not move beneath me.
You are gone.
You do not light
the room
with your messages.
You do not call.
You do not spread
a layer of yourself
along the back of the seat
to slide into my hair.
I find flecks of you on my clothing
and in the creases of my mouth
you taste of active yeast
burnt THC
and disappointment
But you are not here.
My body is alone
unpeeled from itself
flapping like a wounded bird.
Shoot me until I am still.
Breathing the memory of you
undoes me like
a shoe
slipped on and off
one time 
too many.

Co-dependence - Rachael Elliott

The women are graceful with quills                 and fear

They dance to keep their feet         planted

         one in a puddle

         one in the cupboard

The women buy each other pink musk bubble bath

                                                 cap the bottle with a diamond

They lace themselves behind the wheel

        of utilities

lick                 abandonment

         kill cockroaches with blue vapour

laugh with winking teeth

The women are vibrant with stockings                 and downcast eyes

reaching for the cookie                 jar

getting handfuls of Persil

         the last card instead

They dress as a mannequin                missing a hand

in camouflage

leopard print,                 striped zip

lucky mother forgot that day

         once is enough

for hairless weeping                                         

                                         They are coping

                        They are coping

The men are spiced with cologne and throw away                                 compliments

dark denim         empty shelf        single jandal

last night’s glitter in their beds

They too, wear their father’s ashes

in silver                 around their necks

They too, hear the tide washing out

and try to fill it with beer

They are coping

        They are coping

The men, stained with orange street lights        buy women

to weep in

to cover in pearls and black stretch satin

with arms to wrap their teeth around

shrug off


The men burn the night

against the steel doorframe

with cricket eyes

smoke rising from their fingers

This woman is first aid saline


she removes her hands

to prevent accidental touching

She is spectacular         in last night’s make up

black rings cover the bruise to follow

The woman waits behind an orange pillow

cradled to her chest

         to prevent coughing

and tries to forestall leakage

The woman is frivolous with silence

and baking

she downloads rejection

one card at a time

her ipod is smashed

the night paints itself over her eye

The woman breathes nerve electrics

she is memorable in feathers

She takes her lips and nails to bed


She is coping

        She is coping

The woman does not murmur lullabies

or accept cut flowers

Her selves fight each other

in a paddling pool mirror

The woman knows what it is to cross                        last

she knows what it is to bleed,         blue shadows

She expects it

She is coping

        She is coping

The woman belongs to no one

unmarked by gold

she creaks backward on the swing seat


The woman sighs pinecones

and a man burns them for kindling

She sings knitted melodies

he gathers kindling

         splits nails

The woman inserts garlic into a lamb’s leg

         the man picks the meat from the bone.

She’s alone.

The man sweats through last night’s sheets

         The woman pushes scrambled eggs around a plate

she pours vodka and glitter into her mouth

         and pants

He’s alone.

The woman sweats through last night’s sheets

         he brings her warm towels

drives home

breathing addresses out the window

         she re-reads old letters

he salts her dinner

          limes her glass

he kisses her beneath her eye

her forehead

her ear

he kisses her hair

billowing through his fingers

she kisses his mouth

his thumb

         his fear.

They are burning.

They are burning.

Contributor's Note

Rachael has a Masters in creative writing, and has previously edited Nexus magazine. Her work has appeared in 4th Floor, JAAM, Poetry New Zealand and previous issues of Mayhem. She is currently recovering from an epic case of writer's block in Hamilton.  


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