The Habit


I developed a habit

when I was 15

of being kind

to everyone

but myself.



After hearing so many people

talk about their regrets in high school

tried to be kind

even though I knew

I wouldn’t always get it right.



When I was 15

I developed a language

only I could hear


and I would say it to myself

every day

until I was exhausted.


I would say it to myself

in the mirror

or in the morning

with a spoon for cereal in my hand


I would say it to myself

when I pulled back

the linens on my bed


I would say it to myself

while waiting for a light to go green

on the street


I would say it to myself

any time I had

a spare moment

even though

spare moments

were never enough.


I became so accustomed to hearing

you’re worthless

you’re disgusting

you don’t deserve it


you are a terrible person

you are not enough

you will never be enough


this is all your fault


I became so accustomed to hearing this

that I stopped fighting the words

for it was easier to be struck

and felt less painful

than when I struggled.


And at 22,

with the habit firmly in my fist

I said the words in passing

under my breath


my wife

heard them too.


I will never forget

how outraged she looked


It was as though

I had struck her, too.

She asked me if I heard what I said

I hadn’t.


I could only apologise



while she shook her head

in disbelief.


So this poem

is part therapy

part apology


While I learn

something to else to say


While I learn

a new language

that is different

from the one I taught myself

when I was 15.


I will break the habit

the way rain

wears down a stone






i keep trying to make a list

of things that happen here in the winter

like the way your hair smells like snow

when you come in from work


but being australian

i feel ill-equipped to describe snow

in all its forms


the way you do

when you encounter it

on the street

at home

in pop culture


i only know that

i don’t feel so cold

when my arm is around your arm

and my hand is in the pocket

of your coat