from the editor's desk

‘Longing: Three Ways’ by Maddie Godfrey

In 2021, with the support of the Copyright Agency‘s Cultural Fund, and in partnership with Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ CentreWesterly Magazine was proud to publish writing from our inaugural Mid-Career Fellowship. Two Fellows—Maddie Godfrey in poetry and Annabel Smith in creative nonfiction—were selected from a competitive pool of applications and celebrated in features, one in each issue for the year.

Sharing the material now online, we congratulate our inaugural Fellows and thank them for their wonderful contributions to the Magazine. Work from our 2022 Fellows, Scott-Patrick Mitchell and Caitlin Maling, will be published in issues coming this year.

Maddie Godfrey’s ‘Longing: Three Ways’ was published in Westerly 66.1.

Ocean Vuong writes of desire as a temporary hunger, saying ‘I wonder what it feels like to move at the speed of thirst—if it’s as fast as lying on the kitchen floor with the lights off’ (68). During my conceptualisation of this series of hybrid prose poems, I found myself returning to the idea of desire as kinetic; as something that travels, moves and experiences turbulence (yet never entirely arrives). From this context, the motif of reaching emerged as a core component of my own experiences of desire, and hence these poems. Whether reaching for the attention of a pop star, gazing towards shoulder blades on a staircase, or grasping for familiarity, the personas are documented in various states of extension. As a queer writer who is documenting an autobiographical longing for other LGBTQIA+ subjects, my writing is interested in what it means to occupy a sidelined body that is reaching for another sidelined body.
 Situated between two dominant understandings of genre, the prose poem embodies this sense of reaching. It is a place where prose brushes the outstretched fingertips of poetry. The form can be understood as a poem wearing the disguise of a paragraph; a compressed rectangle that plays a trick on the reader’s expectations, amplifying each gasp and sigh. In the ‘tightly framed space’ of the prose poem (Munden), each visual absence is exaggerated by surrounding proximity. These three prose poems are not love poems. Rather, they are quiet conversations happening in the hallways of romance, where longing presses itself against the wallpaper as someone louder bustles through.

you, clothed in shades of salmon so enticing,
they could give a vegetarian an appetite for
something still alive enough to vibrate in the light.
you, twirling your microphone with the confidence
of a man, and the glamorous risk of a teenage
girl. you, who bleed in the wrong direction, just like
I do. you, singing to a sold-out room, is there somewhere
is there somewhere you can meet me?
you, the equinox of longing. when I learnt
you were full of futures you once grieved
I clutched my own womb, which has
betrayed me in so many fairy tales,
yet still sheds, like feathers on a dance-floor
like dead skin from a sweaty palm, gripping
too tight. that night, when you reached into
the crowd, our hands held a private conversation.
meanwhile, a stadium of mouths opened
wide like wet, pink, phone screens.
while a mosh grabbed for your attention, you held
on. stroked my palm like a secret message,
laughed kindly into my eyes, while I sobbed
and marvelled at my own melodrama.
thought I had outgrown
these shades of longing.
is there somewhere?
is there somewhere?

Every Time I Buy Fruit It Turns Rotten, Forgotten In The Bowl
there was a tattoo between your shoulder blades that I wanted
to press my face against, the way older women check
for ripeness before adding mangos to their basket.
I thought I was straight until I saw you on a staircase.
suddenly, I was a hormonal boy fidgeting in his ill-fitting
suit jacket and you were a slow-motion announcement
that clichés can still be beautiful. let the butterflies enter
the stomach. let the sunrise arrive, again. my jaw;
a predictable apple, falling into your palm. I wanted
to tangle my ambition around your schedule; argue about
soaking dishes instead of scrubbing them. often,
my infatuation looks like a strange willingness to wear
an apron. to enact the domesticity I have spent my
youth resisting. yes, I will build you a treehouse. yes, I will
bake you a roast dinner basted in honey. yes, I will scrub
a floor and darn a sock. yes, I will assure you that
your shoulders make sense. yes, I will learn to be the man
and the woman you deserve. the last time I saw you, we held
hands in a bar where even the vodka bottles paused
mid-pour. years later, your chat bubble calls me baby. still, we will never share a kitchen counter.

Desire's First Steps
my ligaments have forgotten their first times. like wooden chairs stacked outside a church, something sacred left to rot. like a graffitied version of a painting that already exists. like squatting for a piss while wearing your mother's wedding dress. the school oval where I probably kiss chasey'd my mouth into a memory, now a concrete classroom. even the story has been renovated. like finding your baptism outfit in an op-shop, but now it fits like a lace garter, hemline the width of your thigh. like watching a shirtless driver reverse parking during a rainstorm. liek becoming so familiar with familiarity that you touch it without even trying. like dangling your sneakers off a faceless cliff. your hand catches mine with the certainty of a trampoline surrounded by netting. how the first boy who sweated into my palm was not my first love but a tech rehearsal. all the stage lights were on, but I was posing on their perimeter. lover, I did not look for an awning. I assumed the church chairs would rot before they bore the weight of tomorrow's prayers. ligaments are preoccupied romantics. lover, I am standing in my best light when you reach me.

Works Cited

Munden, Paul. ‘Playing With Time: prose poetry and the elastic moment’ in Monica Carroll, Shane Strange and Jen Webb (eds.), Prose Poetry. TEXT 46 (2017).

Vuong, Ocean. Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon, 2016.

Maddie Godfrey is a writer, educator, editor and emotional feminist. Their first collection, How To Be Held (Burning Eye Books, 2018), is a manifesto to tenderness. Maddie has recently been awarded the Tom Collins Prize, the Kat Muscat Fellowship and a writing residency with the National Trust of Western Australia.

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