Ruined words

‘I love you’: Can you see these words without the trembling awkwardness of your youth, and the tint of all your heartbreaks? Without the glossy plastic layers from the hundred-odd rom coms and TV you’ve watched. Consider those words without the dust you’ve let accumulate, each time that you said it as if it was the most everyday thing to say to someone as they walk out the door. Just look at those words without those layers. Look at them without remembering. How strange, wet with emotion, and trusting they are. Voids of black, deep green and pulsing reds; all just ready to coexist, for the sheer possibility of bathing in another’s light.

Pick the words out of the unknowing darkness, with care and gentleness that you would gather a broken bird with. Pick them because, although they’ve fallen, they are still beautiful; even as they’re browning, drying up of life-water, they echo more than the memory of some once-upon beauty. Because they echo the truth of beauty. That, what once was is part of the forever. 

1905, Two bird-lovers in Mexico. Beebe, William, London, A. Constable & company, ltd. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and company, via American Museum of Natural History Library

I see you

I see you, an old earth sage
vast and still like a cold lake;
and, the mother in the sky, 
she loves you.

I see you, the woman in love
I have a river in me to get you drunk
I’m cold but love-woman, 
I am the one.

I see you, lone grey wolf, 
that night when you cried for the moon,
I was the night air
that stroked your heavy heart.

I saw your funeral Domino;
she was sad, and you were a good man.
Sometimes mothers do things 
that hurt. You’ll be alright.

Little flower that grew on the grave,
you watched the world,
you watched the madness.
Stay sweet. Trust. There’s a reason for all this.

I see you, the grand old merchant; 
Your eyes and ears have felt far things.
In a seldom voice 
you draw threads from unmade worlds.

I see you, the burning fire.
Your hunger to know the stars
is blinding.
I fear you’ll burn my nights alight and leave me wanting.

I see you mother woman.
Of your own, you have no children
but all the fallen angels 
come home to you to cry.

Blackfoot man—the broken warrior, 
I’m the one you dream in the darkness, 
You’ll never touch me with your hands,
but you’ll smell me on lone nights in the woods.

I see you old ship, 
I am your sailor
I fear the ocean deeps, 
but far less than being kept asleep; 
Old ship, can you sail me away to danger? 
The compass on your chest will know which way to go.

Darling, do you see that dark alley?
Take me there and feel me.
Don’t worry my love, 
the night is my home.

1907, Many masks, Field Museum of Natural History. Chicago, USA.

I like to make you watch me cry

I like to make you watch me cry.

I like to go somewhere unseeing, unhearing

of ‘darlings’, ‘tell me what’s wrongs’

and other sweet nothings

—a place so far that you can’t save me from drowning.

I like to go there and cry,

while you watch helpless

as salt mountains crumble

and roll down my cheeks.


I like to make you watch me cry

quietly in a sort of everyday horror

while we sit at the table in silence

as if what we’re eating is just dinner.


I like to make you watch me cry

because it takes out my pain and all its pieces,

lays them out in a live exhibition

that you have no choice but to comment on after.


I like to make you watch me cry,

because after that game we just played

where you take the things you love and tear them,

darling, I’m feeling cruel-faced.



1887, The Open court: Carus, Paul. Open Court Publishing company, Chicago.