The Friday Poem: ‘the life expectancy of a cloud’ by Paula Harris

New verse by Palmerston North poet Paula Harris.


the life expectancy of a cloud


I try to calculate if there is any point to health insurance

or retirement savings or planning ahead


women in New Zealand have an average life expectancy of 83.3 years

giving us 3.3 years more than men


recurrent depression reduces life expectancy by 7 to 11 years

(smokers only lose 8 to 10 years, which seems messed up)


poets live on average 62.2 years (66.2 if they’re American)

compared to the longevity of novelists and their 66 years

while nonfiction writers flaunt their 67.9


no one writes about the implications of Crohn’s disease

or an ileostomy, but surely nine years of being malnourished

has had some effect? now I live with the threat of kidney stones

and mesh infections and feel the constant yearning for a night where my sleep

isn’t disturbed by my ostomy bag needing attention


loneliness is a predictor of premature death

while marriage will shorten a woman’s life by a year;

having a much younger husband will shorten it even more

(although maybe it’d be worth it);

heartbreak can literally break your heart or cells into a thousand pieces

that can never be put back together


my cells are turning on me at an ever-increasing rate


Paula Harris, 2018

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