by Hera Lindsay Bird

This morning I went to see an accountant about my tax return. The accountant 

asked me lots of questions about my business expenses and supplementary 

income I didn’t know the answers to because I don’t have business expenses or 

supplementary income. I don’t like thinking about money, or even going into a 

bank, because every time I do feel unjustifiably paranoid I will somehow rob it 

by accident. I didn’t know how much money I should put aside so I just put all

of it aside and I wasn’t worried until I learned about provisional tax which is

when you’re a freelancer and the first year you earn over $2,500 dollars you’re

obliged to not only pay tax for the current financial year but the same amount

again for the year in advance for reasons I don’t understand plus five percent

extra because it’s agreed that people’s financial situations improve with time,

and then more on top because I still owe $33,000 to the government for my arts

education and will be paying them back until I am either dead or civilisation

collapses and I live out the remainder of my days in Kevin Spacey’s abandoned

beachhouse in Malibu, smoking weed and making angry portraits of dead

celebrities out of seashells. The accountant was the mother of one of my

friends and was very kind to me. We did some initial figures and worked out

my tax return was approximately all my savings. I thanked the accountant for

her time, and asked after the wrists of her daughter, which were very bad and

full of painful bones. And then I walked outside into the sunlight and was

immediately stung to death by hornets. Ok I wasn’t really stung to death by

hornets but I thought it was unfair, not the tax part because I believe in

hospitals as much as the next person, just the two years at once. It was a stupid

morning at the accountants and a huge disappointment to me. It was such a

disappointment I started wondering what the point of the whole thing was,

poetry and art and all the rest of it, if it meant I had to spend the rest of my life

working at a job where I get yelled at by cruise ship tourists for not stocking

the complete works of Danielle Steele and I didn’t even get to burst

conspicuously into tears at an Eastern European train station once. I shouldn’t

have bothered with a book at all, or poetry in general. I should have gone back

to university and learned about maritime law or Russia’s main trade exports.

Why make art at all when the conditions are so brutal and exhausting? Why

subject yourself to it? For a moment I wished I hadn’t done any of it, and I had

never heard of Emily Dickison or any of those other emotionally articulate

meadow-frequenting piece of shit dumbasses. On my walk home, I bought an

eggcup from a junkshop that had a picture of a frog playing the banjo on it. The

frog was sitting on a lilypad, and red, purple and green notes were flickering

around him like broken Christmas lights. His banjo was red. Actually his banjo

looked more like an electric guitar, but it doesn’t really make sense for a frog

on a lilypad to be plucking an electric guitar, because lilypads are traditionally

a water based plant but I have an enduring love for both old timey American

paraphernalia and lesser reptiles and it was only 50c which, although not

expensive feels narratively significant in the context of this poem. I don’t know

what the moral of the story is regarding the frog and the money and all the rest

of it. I felt very defeated and stupid, like somewhere along the way I had made

a very bad decision with my life. I don’t know what the purpose of art is, other

than it’s one of the few reasons to live and I don’t know how to continue

making it and not get burned out but I came straight back home and

immediately wrote a poem about how infuriating it all was, so I suppose I have

to admit I have some degree of responsibility for the depressing but

predictable way things have turned out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bella Li | Excerpt from ‘Pérouse, ou, Une semaine de disparitions’, Argosy | 9″x12″

Photo credit Russel Kleyn

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. She has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters where she won the 2011 Adam Prize for best folio. Her debut, self titled book of poetry, HERA LINDSAY BIRD, was published in July 2016 by Victoria University Press.

‘Tax Return’ was originally published in Tell Me Like You Mean It: New Poems from Young and Emerging Poets, a reading and E-Chapbook collaboration with Cordite Poetry Review. Read about it more here.