Image: woman floating in deep water

Triage (Rebecca Jessen)

the kind lady on the end of the line will say this: I have to ask. in the present you wait. yes, I was thirteen, only the one time. yes, family. no, no one. the kind lady on the end of the line will notice the catch in your breath. that’s okay she will say, I don’t need details, but you will talk about these things one day. and you will think, no, not one. she will ask about your plan. yes, I think about it every week, that unwavering expanse of ocean slipping quietly into the blue night. it’s an exit strategy, you know, if it gets too much. tread carefully here, you have to tell these details to the right strangers. do not raise alarm with your blasé attitude towards your own death. be cool. smile while you talk. no. not this week. I guess it’s been a good week then. and how to measure chronic emptiness. that’s what this is, right? the kind lady on the end of the line will say you don’t sound empty. well that’s something then. isn’t it. and what is sound anyway. but another diagnosis to unstick. the kind lady on the end of the line will ask you what day it is. every day. it is everyday. she will say save this number. call any time. but sooner. rather than later. you know something about later. and there are no numbers left to dial. someone will be here for you. those words echo into the past and future and ring untrue. there is no here. not for you.

Image: portrait of Rebecca Jessen

Rebecca Jessen is the Brisbane-based award-winning author of verse-novel Gap (UQP, 2014). In 2017, her poem ‘(after) HER: dating app adventures’ was shortlisted for the Val Vallis Award. Rebecca’s writing has been published in Overland, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, Cordite Poetry Review, Tincture Journal and many more. She is currently working on her first poetry collection. Find her at: