34

you’re gone, and

you took your love with you

on your way

out the door.

you were my last cigarette,

now,

i don’t smoke anymore.

what a shame

it is to be human,

what a burden

is the heart,

love is only

beautiful,

when it’s

portrayed in art.

robbed of my vice,

with nothing

to show,

except a hole in

my chest

where your love used to be,

not long ago.

how easily tender memories

are swept up and away

like smoke, or a cloud

on a windy

winter’s day.

how quickly love is

betrayed by fearful

gluttony—

you left with my last cigarette,

not even the ashes are here

to comfort me.

[ photo: photo by Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison ]

33

always workin’ hard makes

an honest soul tired,

but i can’t get no sleep,

cus’ i’m up all night,

dreamin’ of places

i’d rather be.

gotta’ get outta’ here

fast,

the water’s full to the brim,

but i’m all the way under,

n’ i don’ know how to swim.

i gotta’ shake off these

blues,

but it might be too late—

the change in my pocket

says,

i gotta’ wait.

gotta’ work

to make money,

gotta’ pay what i owe,

no time to waste,

gonna’ reap what i sow.

can’t slow down,

i’ll dream when I’m outta’

the thick,

no rest ‘till then,

gotta’ move quick’.

clear up head,

no time to choke—

were the last words

my honest soul

ever spoke.

the change in my pocket

got a hold on me,

and now,

i got the blues.

[ photo: photo by Kyle Thompson @kylejthompson ]

32

{ amnesia }

the past is never forgotten—

mistakes, failures, tragedies

in particular,

never leave you.

you hide them away,

in the darkest corners of

regret, and

cement them there,

where they rot and

spoil the soil of

the heart, and

pollute the waters of the soul so that

nothing new can grow,

except the festering

corpses of dreams and aspirations.

you begin to see the past

as a lifelong affliction that

the mind must bear—

a kind of punishment.

no matter how deeply

you may yearn to change and

create,

the heart and soul have been

paved over, and

there are no cracks in

the cement.

you begin to see

all life as

punishment, and

the past as an immovable barrier—

you stop trying to change anything,

stop trying to create anything,

and stop trying to grow,

hoping to escape from the

painful memories that torment you by

recoiling from life entirely, and

retreating

into isolation, because

being alone is a good disguise, and

a good place to hide.

meanwhile,

the water level is rising and

you’re gasping for air.

if only

you could forget.

[ photo: photo by Lara Zankoul ]

31

sitting quietly on the bench,

looking up at the night sky—

a vast, gaping abyss,

alive with brightly shining stars,

a reflection in my eye,

all looking down at me,

looking up at them—

a smirk crosses my face and

lingers there.

whatever souls are made of,

i saw mine out there.

i close my eyes and

press my fingertips against my eyelids,

trying to imprison,

within my mind,

an image

i never wanted to forget.

whatever beauty is,

it’ll never compare.

[ photo: photo by @seamlessoo ]

30

{ dorian gray }

i think it a terrible curse to be a woman.

at times, when i

look in the mirror,

i imagine

i’m seeing a teary-eyed,

young girl—

robbed of her innocence,

deprived of love, and

grasping at fading beauty.

the girl always asks me:

what happened to you?

and while staring deeply into my own

tired eyes,

i’ll tell her that i paint my face

for myself,

that i wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes

for myself,

that i remove my body hair and

keep my skin soft and

smooth like a child’s

for myself,

that i’m not hungry.

and to this, she’ll ask:

why do you do it?

to be beautiful?

but i simply shake my head because

i know that youth makes her naive, and

she doesn’t understand that

the reason i behave this way is

not so obvious.

i’ll tell her that,

beauty is just a means to an end, and

the reason i do it all is

so that she can be happy.

then, i’ll tell her not to worry, that

i’ve got it all under control.

day to day, i see the same

tired eyes, that i see in my reflection, in

the faces of other women

passing on the street, and

i imagine that each of them,

while standing in front of their bathroom mirror,

stares intently into her own reflection, and tells the

eyes of her younger self that she’s happy, too—

that she’s in control, too.

i imagine, like me,

she’ll say whatever she needs to say, and

she’ll say it for years,

hoping that soon

someone will love her for

her beauty,

but, like me, she knows

somewhere in her heart that won’t happen,

that she’s not in control,

that none of her lies are true,

that beauty is the enemy of happiness, and

the enemy of love.

it is the tragedy that befalls every woman,

that by the time she realizes the truth,

it’s already too late—

her youth

is gone, her beauty

has faded,

the curse has already done its work,

and she finds herself,

standing in front of a mirror,

explaining to the eyes of her younger self

that she has everything under control.

[ photo: photo by @cecile_hoodie via @witchyfeelings_ ]

29

freedom is a cheap dream:

the universe is nothing but cold,

empty space, and

i’m just the remnants of a supernova,

a collection of atoms,

a complex system of organs and neural circuitry evolved over millennia—

no one is ever truly free.

in critical moments,

the freedom i’m fighting for is always

assaulted Brutus style—

from the inside.

the enemy is never external,

but always my own body, and

the only choice is

between pain and

the idea of pain.

but even when i’m not

inundated with pain or

paralyzed by fear,

life is a moment-to-moment struggle against

thirst, fatigue, depression, or

the rent.

even in my sleep,

i’m not free.

photo: photo via @cigaretlove via @theofficialthirteen

28

i avoid the place where you rest eternal.

your body lay there,

but not you.

patches of dry,

withered grass and that’s all.

how soon the world forgets.

your memory tears at my heart because

you died

loving me,

when i was too young and too selfish to

understand what that meant,

and because somehow,

you manifested

a conception of loyalty

that was unalterable.

they say that

time heals all,

but each night i

dream of you and i see

your face more clearly than

the night before.

each day that passes the

ache remains and

the void grows larger—

the longing for what

was lost,

before it ever was.

a wound like this consumes you,

swallows you slowly,

until you’re stuck in it—

unable to move forward,

unable to go back—

and i’m stuck for good,

because there is no cure

for a pain like this,

not even time.

[ photo: photo by Miriam Sweeney ]

27

{ bathtub meditations }

like an object quivering on the horizon,

it lingers there—

in that empty space—

nebulous,

on the edge of consciousness.

i pull it close,

aware only briefly

that it’s the idea

of some moment

to which

i would like to return,

but cannot.

i loved you in that moment:

when i first saw you,

before you saw me.

i watched you

searching the crowd.

you weren’t looking for me,

but you found me.

looking back, there’s

something romantic about that

mingled sensuality

and despondency;

something endearing about

the way we loved each other so recklessly

that we hurt each other in the end,

when the moment passed, and

we had no choice

except to leave it behind—

and leave each other behind—

because stagnancy is more dangerous than heartbreak.

[ photo: from photographer Logan Zillmer’s ‘365 project’ ]

26

what do we wish for when we see beauty?

to be beautiful.

we think happiness must be connected with it,

but that is an error.

when i see a beautiful woman

i envy her beauty,

but i wonder:

has she been loved?

i see the answer clearly

in her perfect mask—

painted with agonizing care.

in the details of her beauty

i see the complexity of her

despair.

just another lonely creature,

a rare black mare,

surrounded by admirers—

praising her because they cannot love her.

beauty is not something to wish for.

[ photo: ‘Death Of An Image’, Andrea Galvani ]

25

{ anonymous }

during the day she’d take long aimless walks around the city.

if it was raining,

she’d walk with her face toward the clouds

letting the drops hit her,

trying to feel something.

she’d sit for hours staring at pigeons,

never people—

watching people scurrying around each other like blind little mice

reminded her of just how

disconnected the species had become.

she didn’t feel like one of them.

she felt numb watching them.

in the evening she’d frequent a piano bar on the east side of town.

it was small, cozy, hidden.

she’d go there at least a couple of nights a week,

there were performers every night:

piano, saxophone, all of it—

all the soul, all the blues, all the jazz.

she’d arrive promptly when the place opened and stay for at least four or five hours.

no one to sit with her,

no books to occupy her,

no booze or substance to distract her

(well, maybe one drink).

she was totally exposed,

completely vulnerable.

she’d listen to the music and

occasionally survey the room—it was

the only time she didn’t mind

observing other people.

there were some rough faces in that bar,

some lonely faces,

faces just like hers.

all there with the same prerogative:

human connection.

there was no stage,

so the artists were right on top of the audience—so close, they didn’t even need a microphone.

every wrinkle on

their forehead, every bead of

sweat, the sincerity

in their eyes—

you could really see

the human in them.

when certain artists performed,

she felt like their voice was her voice,

their music was coming from her heart.

it was one of the rare times when she felt something beyond numbness,

when she felt connected to another person.

one night on the bus ride home,

while humming a tune she had heard

a few hours earlier,

she wrote herself a note:

people need music.

it’s how we

connect.

photo: photo by unknown

24

i went to the place where

we used go,

but you weren’t there;

and even though i knew you wouldn’t be—

still, i looked for you.

hope is the cruelest illusion.

back to the beginning,

when the flowers were blossoming and young

and so was our love.

back to those days in the middle,

all muddled and out of order,

a story born of the confusion between

imagination and memory.

back to the end

when the trees were bare and black with flocks of crows,

and the flowers had withered.

with your eyes you said:

i loved you in the summer,

but it’s winter now, baby.

but i won’t forget you yet;

because after winter comes the spring when

even after it’s all gone rotten,

all it takes is

one drop of rain and

ray of sunlight

for everything to revive.

hope is the cruelest illusion.

[ photo: Tipi Hedren from ‘The Birds’, Philippe Halsman ]

23

here i am:

sitting on a park bench;

raindrops falling on my last cigarette;

alone in a world

where it’s necessary

not to be alone.

little puddles

forming in clusters at my feet

draw my attention.

dig my fingers deep into the ground,

pull out a handful of mud

and roll it between my palms.

this is it.

the rest is all an act.

[ photo: @ratherbedeadthancool ]