new zealand electronic poetry centre

Kapka Kassabova


Kapka Kassabova was born and raised in Bulgaria. After two years in England, her family moved to New Zealand and since then she has also lived in France and Germany. She is a poet, novelist and essayist. Her debut novel Reconnaissance (Penguin) won the 2000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first novel in the South-East Asia and the Pacific. Her first book of poetry won the 1999 Montana Best First Book of Poetry. Her second novel is Love in the Land of Midas (Penguin) and she was the 2002 New Zealand Cathay Pacific travel writer of the year. Her latest book of poetry is Someone Else’s Life (Bloodaxe, 2003). In the last nine months, she has held the Creative NZ Berlin writer’s residency. 
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Lying with the Ghosts of the House

Tonight is the longest night of the year. 
We lie, obedient to the seasons
in the glow of street lamps, 
beneath the outlines of things 
that could be ours, some other time.

To the sound of snow falling, 
we must sleep, again and again
like diving into the soft centre 
of each separate life 
we might’ve had. 

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year -
a pale wing that beat just once 
then fell into the twilight of three o’clock. 
The snow has settled. 
We can hear it growing old. 

I say we but there is no one. 
The neighbour upstairs has gone skiing.
The people across have turned off the light 
in their children’s room. 
The rest of the street is a museum. 

Whoever else is here now 
will be here tomorrow.
They are measuring the beats 
of my remaining blood. 
They quietly know something 

I am afraid to ask.


Look: the poverty of rain
Let’s gather it in thimbles of patience 
Then pour it out in the mud

We’ll count all the worlds 
to which we’ll never go 

We must remember – memory is hope.
But quietly, for words can cut out gaps in us 
so wide, we’d find 
too many bodies lying there

Forget, we must forget 
the memories – they open up and blossom 
like switch-blades in the guts

Look: this is the world we have
Too poor to hide in 
Too dark to cross, too single to forget


© Kapka Kassabova 2003

Last updated 08 July, 2003