Considerations for Maze-Building/Determining an Appropriate Level of Guilt Upon Leaving Someone I Do Not Love

1) The intention of the maze is to disrupt
the intuition of the traveller as frequently
as possible // how often did they hand me the map?
Was I asked politely to navigate? Told?

Permitted? 2) At a fork where within sight
one path branches again and the other does not,
the traveller will assume the branched path is correct.
How convincing the wrong turns should be made

must be balanced with how much path would be wasted
untravelled should the traveller choose
correctly // how often (if ever) did I directly lie
about my feelings? My intentions?

How often was I asked about them?
3) The centre must be a compelling reward.
But the bigger it is, the lesser the space
for travelling. Try to do as much with as little

as possible // if they were asked to estimate
on a scale of 1-10 how hard my heart was,
by how many places would they be out?
Asked to locate my heart on this scale within their earshot,

by how many places would I lie? 4) Consider randomising
or at least varying the directions of the correct turns
relative to a) the centre (in vs out)
b) the traveller (left vs right) c) the current direction of travel

(continuation vs deviation) // when I left them, what else of value
did I take? Gifts, jewellery? Their children (born
or anticipated)? Their parents’ pride? My chest,
my teeth? The guarantee that they can do this?

5) Travellers feel instinctively that doubling back
is incorrect. Use this as the correct choice more
than randomly indicated. This illusion strengthens
as the traveller nears the centre // can they do this?

Have they ever successfully done this? What proportion
of the issue of me not loving them is a result
of their inherent attributes? 6) For the maze to be truly
challenging you must identify all the patterns the traveller

could identify in your decision making process
and break them // if I were handed a magic wand
which could cast me happily ever after with them,
how long would I hesitate before snapping it in half?

In Which Nechama Does Not Compute

Nechama has a face which looks like other faces.
She is used to people stopping sharp
in the street, strangers to her while she is both
stranger and not-stranger to them. I’m sorry,
I thought you were someone – a refrain so familiar
she wonders if she’s exaggerating it to herself
until each time it happens again.

Her mother says it comes from being mixed ethnicity:
two bone structures laid one atop the other, more
chances for the intersections of curves and angles
which make a face distinctive. Tonight she strokes
Nechama’s cheeks and says, I chose your father well,
didn’t I? Nechama bites back on the loud self
who wants to say, chose him for what?

Intercultural Caffeine Fix

Raised with the ritual of Turkish coffee

(which needs to be called Greek coffee in Greek places

and possibly other things elsewhere;

I’m not over the time I locked panicked eyes

with Dad over dessert menus, both of us

blanking on what exactly you’re meant to ask for

in a Kurdish restaurant

with no desire to get our drinks spat into,

the waiter rescuing us, Turkish coffee, sir?)

I was late to learn that not all coffee is painful.


The question I have to restrain myself from asking

in the portion of the job interview where they ask you

whether you have any questions

to check up on how much you want the job

is: do people here drink coffee or tea?

Making tea for a wilting colleague is comfort.

Making coffee is an offer of fuel

to push them past the exhaustion barrier.

Is this place exhausting?

But of course you can’t ask that.


Anna Kahn is a Barbican Young Poet and a London Library Emerging Writer. She has gigged a lot. Her work has been published in journals (The Rialto, The London Magazine, The Rumpus) and anthologies (Why Poetry: The Lunar Poetry Podcasts Anthology, The Dizziness of Freedom, Alter Egos.)

Cover art credit: Author’s.