Chris Price


Harriet and the Matches

Harriet hisses and spits -
her snaky locks match
her flame-red lips.
She’s a whiz with the fuzzbox
whipping up a storm
of distortion, burning up
the frets like Hendrix.
Men are often scared to step

too close for fear of the flick
of her tongue, like the flint
of a lighter at the end
of a loose thread hanging
from the sleeve of conversation
they take cover in, to hide
their fraying nerves. Harriet
makes them anxious. When

she does that trick, flicking the
match off the strike, it could fly
in any direction, burn the
hair off the back of your arm
or find a pool of unignited fuel
in you and then the whole thing
could go up. It’s best, around Harriet,
to stay cool, keep your trigger finger

on the extinguisher, hope
for rain.



Chris Price is the author of a poetry collection, Husk (Auckland University Press, 2002) and a hybrid assemblage of fiction, anecdote and essay called Brief Lives (Auckland University Press, 2007) which was shortlisted in the biography category of the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She lives in Wellington, and teaches at the International Institute of Modern Letters. ‘Harriet and the Matches’ is the name of a real New Zealand band, but the poem presents an entirely imaginary Harriet.