Narcissus is a teenage girl. No other figure loves her; she loves herself to fill the difference. She watches herself constantly: in the darkened windows of cafés and storefronts and the silvered glass in her bathroom. Alone she pouts, minces, tosses her hair, shapes her face for every angle. She knows her good side. She knows how to move her mouth. She generates self-awareness as the world becomes aware of her.
from the article “I’m Not Myself You See“, by larissa pham
At midnight, I gave her the poems.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Well, the last word in the first line is a trochee, and it rhymes with the end of the next line. So ‘catachresis’ rhymes with ‘fleece’.”
“No, what’s going on?”
“In a catachresis?”
“No. What are you talking about?”
“Uh… I have a big crush on you.”
“Oooooh,” she said. She smiled and let the pages fall on the table. She relaxed in front of my eyes. “So how did it start?”
“Well, I think you’re really beautiful.”
She relaxed a lot more – in fact, her face changed shape a little, got a little more round as if her jaw had unclenched. I didn’t know whether that was a good sign or not, but I couldn’t shut up yet.
“I always thought so. Right away, when I saw you.”
“The amazing black dress,” she nodded. “I was wearing that when I met you. There’s, uh, a lot of me in that dress. My Fuck the Hostess dress. It’s a real ‘drop to your knees and say amen’ dress.”
“I noticed. It’s gotten a lot worse since then.”
“I know.” She lit one of my Dunhills. I had never seen her so comfortable. “I was on the phone with my friend Merit tonight, and she was like, Does Rob like you? And I said, I don’t know, he made me a tape and he didn’t call and then we danced together and then he left and called and left a message but didn’t call after that. And Merit was like, So, do you like Rob?”
I couldn’t believe she was making me do this. “So, do you?”
She smiled. “I don’t know. He’s not my type, but I really like him.”
love is a mixtape, by rob sheffield
i found this book about five years ago, just wandering around in the library. this was back when the library next door was still a place of wonder and mystery, and not, well, work. so there i was, scanning the shelves, looking for something new to read when – hm. it’s weird to think that i would have never known it existed, had my eyes just skipped this one spine. this actual, real life, life story that’s so sad and wonderful at the same time. it’s weird, having never heard of it outside of myself. all of this music, that i wouldn’t have heard in this beautiful way. my eyes always linger an extra second or two when i pass it by; stacking books, lost in work. i look at the title and the corners of my mouth turn up, just a little. life and loss, one song at a time.
my head is filled,
it burns my throat,
it’s all that i can smell
licks its way across my ribs,
slithers down my sides
it crawls, glides,
drags, pushes itself to my planes
i twitch, i writhe
everything it touches,
i am left
“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it.
“I…” – her voice nearly disappeared – “think I live for you.”
He closed his eyes and pressed his head back into his pillow.
“I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. “Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath. That’s probably why I’m so crabby, and why I snap at you. All I do when we’re apart is think about you, and all I do when we’re together is panic. Because every second feels so important. And because I’m so out of control, I can’t help myself. I’m not even mine anymore, I’m yours, and what if you decide that you don’t want me? How could you want me like I want you?”
He was quiet. He wanted everything she’d just said to be the last thing he heard. He wanted to fall asleep with ‘I want you’ in his ears.
Nothing was dirty. With Park.
Nothing could be shameful.
Because Park was the sun, and that was the only way Eleanor could think to explain it.
“Damn, damn, damn,” she said. “I never said why I like you, and now I have to go.”
“That’s okay,” he said.
“It’s because you’re kind,” she said. “And because you get all my jokes…”
“Okay.” He laughed.
“And you’re smarter than I am.”
“I am not.”
“And you look like a protagonist.” She was talking as fast as she could think. “You look like the person who wins in the end. You’re so pretty, and so good. You have magic eyes,” she whispered. “And you make me feel like a cannibal.”
“I have to go.” She leaned over so the receiver was close to the base.
“Eleanor – wait,” Park said. She could hear her dad in the kitchen and her heartbeat everywhere.
“Eleanor – wait – I love you.”
He wound the scarf around his fingers until her hand was hanging in the space between them.
Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm.
And Eleanor disintegrated.
her, hips swiveling back and forth without a thought. him, three fingers on a straw swirling the ice around and around. her, red lips, hair thrown over bare shoulders. him, polished boots, bangs pushed back. her, lips quirked into a small smile and nose crinkled. him, slow blinks and eyes widened. a twinkle. a spark.
okay so you can imagine this as a really spaced out movie plotline, or a dream. either works.
~ • ~
dread hangs in the air, and when the young man enters the house, he is met by chaos. his colleagues, his brothers and sisters, are suffering, and he watches them all die one by one. the panicked screams haze his mind, disequilibrium taking over his body. he runs from person to person, the words “what do i do?” run on and on in his head. but it doesn’t matter. they all go down, one by one; and left on his knees is one young man, shaking with the sobs that have taken over him. frightened. alone.
a mass of gold glimmers harshly in the window display. watches and rings, necklaces and earrings; the jewellery swells over, diamonds tinkering like cut stars in the sunlight. i turn around and gaze over the sea of people, swishing around each other. via de corso is sweltering.
there’s a price on my head. i can’t move, i can’t breathe, without being watched. everywhere, danger lurks. small dots flashing through the walls, microphones in the ceilings, eyes on my back. they’re everywhere. how did they get in? what do they want from me? this is too big. i think of what happened, of the others lost. the grief strikes me once more, and i find myself remembering the list of names. he wasn’t on there, that must be why he wasn’t a target. gratefulness flickers within me, at least he was spared.
i know what they want. of course that’s what they want. no.
every now and then, always without warning, they send one of their people to tell me that it’s inevitable. that when the time is right, they’ll take the child. my child. as the time goes by, i grow more tired. i become resigned. it’s too big, what can i do? if they want something, they take it. there isn’t a night where i fall asleep without a headache, tears exhausting me beyond the point of consciousness.
when i look at her, it seems like she knows. she’s only two, but it seems like she knows things that i don’t. this miraculous little mistake, half me – zero mine. i tell her i’m sorry all the time, put my arms around her and try to pour my love so deep that it’ll run through her blood forever. even when i’m gone. when she hugs back, it’s like she does it to comfort me. as if disaster isn’t really on its way. as if it’s all in my head.
one night, there’s a knock on my door, and i know it’s them. my fingers tremble as i unlock it. it’s a woman, small but strong, the steel flashing sharp in her green eyes. the word “nonna” flashes in my head. i ask her if she wants to come in, but she declines. she tells me that she’s come to tell me that he’s coming tomorrow. i ask who he is, and she smiles knowingly, as if i should already know the answer. a part of me wonders if maybe i do, but the thought disappears before i manage to chase it down. don’t worry, she tells me. the pieces will fall where they may.
we’re sitting at the table, facing each other. my eyes are fixed on him, his won’t meet mine. he hasn’t touched his tea, flower floating around in the cold liquid. i take a breath, about to ask if he wants me to refill it, when his head snaps up. guilt shades his eyes, green turning murky. i didn’t know. his voice is thick with anguish. i know, i reply. i had accepted what had happened that night a long time ago, each day of seeing my girl making it easier and easier. his expression doesn’t change. i didn’t know that they would do that to us, he says. not with the hurt of a victim, but with the anger of a betrayed. wait. they?, i ask, taken aback. he slumps down further, tries to make himself smaller. realization creeps in, and my blood runs cold. i demand to hear it from him. the whole story. what, exactly, is going on here?
a set-up. il capo bastone. drugged wine. illegitimate conception. et tu brute.
our eyes bore into each other. is he dead?, i ask. one side of his mouth quirks up. a small smile creeps onto my face. good.
me on my third espresso, he on his seventh cup of jasmine tea. i realize my heart’s been fluttering even since before i took my first sip. after all this time. i wonder out loud, now what? he raises his cup, golden watch throwing specks of light on the wall, and replies: now, we start over. i roll my eyes, smiling, and clink my cup to his. i thought that the movies made up that thing about the mafia being overly dramatic. i stand up, towering over him. well in that case, there’s someone that i want you to meet.
~ • ~
pieces fall, tinkering softly
sound fades into nothing
no bottom reached
the void’s eyes bore into yours
sharp points paired, truth
flashing through them
deep into your being
the void sees you
by forces abstract, negative gravity
rational existential deterministic
you want to drink the world
inhale thoughts of dead astronomers
the universe crawling under your skin
concrete abstract, interwoven
cross-stitched into your helixes
etched into the atoms
shoots through nothing,
unknowing dripping thickly
slashes through perception
blade puncturing membrane, viscera
spills out leaving you gaping,
you fall at its feet, merciless
blinding, harsh beauty
freedom in truth, surrender to
I think I left my last genuine laugh
at the Chinese buffet
the way we unclenched our jaws
and clutched our stomachs
faces turning red, or maybe it was orange
because of the poor lighting but despite that,
we still looked so radiant underneath it
and that’s how I like
to remember you
and me, so full
in every aspect of the word,
in every aspect of the world
we were immaculate
and what these memories conjure from me
are feelings akin to
sweet and sour
and I think I figured out
why my mother insists that I come home before 12
come home before I get too drunk to
remember what month it is, come home before
I remind myself that my
dignity had unprotected sex with
every poisonous entity in my life,
under the influence of misery
Come home before I remember
the way you drummed your fingers on
every surface it touched, the way
they felt like petals rubbing against my skin
I’m clenching my teeth just remembering
how your hands were able to dream like
cherry blossoms awakening in the presence of spring,
thriving underneath the fragrance of the sun
but even after you detangled your legs from mine
you still had to have thought of me
with each strand of my hair
sleeping on your pillow
my pantyhose lying dormant on the back
of your chair
my fingerprints on your car window
the glitter from my dress coruscating
on the surface of everything it ever touched
I’m reminded of you.
And I think to myself,
you sure do know how to bring a girl to her knees
you sure do know how to make her weep
into her own taffeta gown,”
You think that to me,
you were merely a phone number etched
on the inside of an 8th grader’s palm,
when really, you were
bible verse murals and
prayer hands of ceramic figurines
resting on bookshelves,
your name resonates
with the sound of bookshelves
a silent thud,
or multiple silent thuds
of your fingers drumming on everything it ever touched
my dignity, my soul, the silent thud
of my self-esteem
by mariko bean
the air nibbles callously at my cheeks as i walk, coat flapping in the wind. my shadow spreads its wings, ready to fly as my feet stomp their way forward. shards of glass lie scattered on the ground, stars fallen from way up high, shattered by the impact. they shimmer in pieces, catching light artificial, releasing beauty more than natural. ready to cross the street, a car whizzes past. my eyes meet the drivers’, time slowing, stretching into the thickest of honeys. as it drips, the music echoes in my ears, words seeping into my mind. now she’s gone, love burns inside me. i enter the bus, scrambling to find my foundation. equilibrium is hard-earned here. people stumble in one by one, together we stagger towards our destination. no one presses the stop button. we may be shaken, but we’re sharp. my mind ambles, remembering when i dropped my keys down the elevator shaft. one slim slit, deep magnetic. they were swallowed, devoured in the blink of an eye. i peered down into the darkness, wondering what lay there. i imagined an abyss, a portal into a different dimension. i felt its stare, saw, in my mind’s eye, my keys being crushed, pressed together into a singularity. one phone call and an instant later, the keys were in my hand again. the bailiff got them for me, fished them out like it was nothing. the master of the abyss, i guess. can the abyss even be mastered, or can it only ever master?
yayoi kusama, kusama’s peep show or endless love show (1966)
1. I left my favorite pair of underwear at your house. I know your mother hates me, can I come pick them up?
2. It’s been almost a month and I still miss you like a fucking limb.
3. I didn’t know my bones could ache until I met you.
4. You know, a week before we broke up, do you remember? I had bought a book of poetry. You asked why I didn’t read something more interesting and I could feel my insides splinter.
5. You said poetry was all lies dressed up to sound pretty. When I look at you these days, I want to ask if sadness sounds pretty to you too.
6. It’s 3 a.m. and this alcohol tastes like you.
7. I saw you staring at me today during Lit class. I smiled at you and you didn’t smile back. I almost cried.
8. The girl who sits next to me smells like you.
9. I miss you.
10. I have never had so many bad nights.
11. Sometimes I write poetry about you on the internet. Strangers who have never met either of us think you’re cruel – they tell me if they had the honor of loving me, we’d have sex three times a day and they’d scream my name when they came.
12. They think it is beautiful, how I am broken. I don’t think they understand.
13. You used to tell me I was beautiful. I tried saying it in the mirror the other day, but it sounded wrong without your mouth wrapped around it.
14. Everything I say sounds wrong without your mouth wrapped around it.
15. We were never in love, but, oh God, we could have been.
“to be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
– e.e. cummings
translation: “world all”, cosmos.
it’s 4 am, and i’m in my bed, reading aniara. i’m barefoot, my lip is aching and i’m reading aniara. i don’t know when my nights became so restless. then again, i can’t remember a time when they weren’t.
i remember laying in bed when i was little, room darkened. i remember seeing the silhouettes fade and getting fuzzier, and fuzzier, and fuzzier still… i thought i was seeing the sun set. it was really just my eyelids getting heavy. when i opened my eyes, i thought an entire night had passed. i thought the sun had switched shifts with the moon and back again. but when i left my room, i heard the soft murmur of tv sounds turned down. and the light was all wrong. this isn’t the morning sun, i thought confusedly. every time confusedly. go back to sleep, my mother said to me. she always sounded so kind. kind and wise and amused, the way only mothers can sound. and then i crawled back into my bed, and tried again.
these nights, my room is more than silhouettes, because i have a light on. i always have a light on, and i’ve never really questioned why. friends have asked me if i’m afraid of the dark, but i always say no. for once, it isn’t fear. i have a light on because i need to see at night. i need to see the night. i don’t want to be bound in darkness and i don’t have to be limited to sleep anymore.
i’m in my bed, reading aniara, and i’m struck by how beautiful the swedish language can be sometimes. the sounds tumble softly down the slope of my tongue, occasionally interrupted by sharpness. there’s a rhythm. the tight rounding of an “o”, the roll of an “r”. the hiss of an “s” and the sigh of an “h”. in the hands of the right blacksmith, it can be wrought into the most beautiful of things. even words fantasized can be spun. weaved with phrases prosaic and poetic, creating a silken web glistening with the smallest drops of diamond dew. like aniara.
en revy om människan i tid och rum. a review of man in time and space. a crystal clear voyage in nothingness, navigating through murky despair and self-deceit. what do we have when we’ve been abandoned by the world? what do we do when we’re faced with ourselves? space fascinates me. the void seems so abstract, like something only the deepest parts of our selves can construct, and yet it’s right there. looming over our heads, in a reality of even just three dimensions. stars and gravity. black holes and gas giants. meteors and orbits. dark matter. energy. it’s all so much.
there’s magic in everything. everything.
by walt whitman
order and chaos have the most dysfunctional of relationships. they’re grey skies, hoarse screams and broken glass. they’re dirt stains, glinting eyes and clutching hands. chaos and order have the most dysfunctional of relationships. they fight all the time, but you never see one without the other. they’re inseparable.
Someday I will stop being young and wanting stupid tattoos.
There are 7 people in my house. We each have different genders. I cut my hair over the bathroom sink and everything I own has a hole in it. There is a banner in our living room that says “Love Cats Hate Capitalism.” We sit around the kitchen table and argue about the compost pile and Karl Marx and the necessity of violence when The Rev comes. Whatever the fuck The Rev means.
Every time my best friend laughs I want to grab him by the shoulders and shout “Grow old with me and never kiss me on the mouth!” I want us to spend the next 80 years together eating Doritos and riding bikes. I want to be Oscar the Grouch. I want him and his girlfriend to be Bert and Ernie. I want us to live on Sesame Street and I will park my trash can on their front stoop and we will be friends every day. If I ever seem grouchy it’s just because I am a little afraid of all that fun.
There is a river running through this city I know as well as my own name. It’s the first place I’ve ever called home. I don’t think its poetry to say I’m in love with the water. I don’t think it’s poetry to say I’m in love with the train tracks. I don’t think it’s blasphemy to say I see God in the skyline.
There is always cold beer asking to be slurped on back porches.
There are always crushed packs of Marlboro’s in my back pockets. I have been wearing the same patched-up shorts for 10 days.
Someday I will stop being young and wanting stupid tattoos.
and when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
“i’m coming back in… and it’s the saddest moment of my life.”
ed white, at the conclusion of the first american spacewalk during the gemini 4 mission on 3 june 1965.
”i didn’t feel like a giant. i felt very, very small.”
neil armstrong, on looking back at the earth from the moon in july 1969.
”when i first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, i cried.”
alan shepard, about his time on the lunar surface during the apollo 14 mission in february 1971.
“there is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
carl sagan in time magazine, 9 january 1995, describing the pale blue dot image of earth, taken by the voyager 1 spacecraft 6 billion kilometres away in 1990.
the first words spoken from the surface of the moon, by buzz aldrin on 20 july 1969 when apollo 11 landed. over six hours later, neil armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface and uttered the immortal line “that’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.
(no please not again)
loss changes you
(no no no)
post-mourning fear disorder
(not another one)
will it get better,
(i beg you)
or just worse?
how can it get worse
it already feels like death
what’s worse than death?
i guess there’s one thing