Tell Me I’m Nothing


the atrophied animal
sleeping at your ankles.

No need to chain me
to the bedpost. 

Every seduction needs only
the smallest of aches.
Every concession: my shoulder
tapping your shoulder.

My teeth
tapping your teeth.

Call me your error.
Call me your stray. 

Know that I am more than my heartache.
More than my strangeness,
more than my arms
tied up together.

You can't fix something broken
with something else that's broken.

Empty bucket. Spineless 

Although you now know me
like a nightmare

and undress me
with your moonlit mouth,

I know it's not enough.
everything works out. 

no. It doesn't.

Please don't 
do that thing
anymore. Please

forgive me. For this
and for everything else
that's coming.

And believe I never meant 
to let you tunnel into me
like that. The way love
twists into a heart,
And keeps twisting.

I believed you when you said
you would not be gentle. 

I just thought there was nothing left
unbruised when we met. Only

my threadbare heart
crawling with larva,
brimming with ghosts. 

I thought I could take it. 

But then we got quiet. 
I opened my mouth.

Call me your downpour.
Call me your death.

That night, I know
I dragged you through
the gutter of this.
How could you refuse me

once you'd turned me over.
Once you made me 
your sorrow, your specter.
Your spiral staircase. Your 
cistern full of pond water.
When you said do this
and I wanted to. 

I would live here for another year 
just to feel like that again.

A sharp grip around my wrists.
Cool breath like bee wings up my spine. 

But now all I feel
is the vacuum of your egress. 
Believe me 

I have enough grief to flood the basement. 
And enough regret to burn the house down. 

Tell me, what could stay upright
in the aftershocks
of this.

Even my doorframe is now
a skewed and haunted thing.

So everything broken
keeps breaking. And we can't 
take the bones 
of our bodies. 
I can't unsay that I loved you. 

Now that you're gone,
the moon follows me home. 

Call me your aimless. 
Call me forgotten.
Call me your fuckup, your weakness,
your garbage.

Your favorite
Tell me I'm nothing.

You refuse 
to dismantle this,
so I will. 

If it's harder to unlove a thing 
why didn't you just leave me
there that night

on the porch
to whimper and crawl
up the steps

Postmodern Love

over and over

you cipher and decipher me

and hack me

into 1s and 0s
you hack me

into pieces

in addition to my heart
take my lungs and all my teeth,
lumbar, larynx,
Jarvik 7

twist my screws out
one by one
by one
by one

it's been hard for me to care much
nothing really hurts

except TypeError:
     print "I really am sorry."


it doesn't even hurt

keep hacking

Basal Ganglia

Everything you do
confounds me.
I am sick
of being punished,
but you can’t seem to help yourself.
This thing you’re doing
doesn’t work for me.
Press two mirrors together
and nothing happens.
Nothing ever happens.
There’s too much noise
and no signal. So why
do you keep reading this?
Ask yourself.
Why are you still sitting here?
At this table.
I only want something terribly sad.
Maybe you are too big or I am too small.
Lovingkindness is not always instinctive.
I have to tell you something
but I don’t know what. Oh well.
Oh well oh well oh well oh well.
Promises are only words
unless you scream them at me.
I’d rather see an fMRI
of your head the night
we met. Let’s see
if your neurons light up
like someone falling to their knees
and nothing to grab onto.

Aggression is instinctive.

Possession is instinctive.
Your eidolon daydream is here
to make you virulent.
The rumors, they’re all true.
I tried, but I couldn’t leave you
or your house
or your head
I can be selfish like that.
I so like to simplify a thing
and keep simplifying.
Until it nearly breaks.
I so like a nearly-broken thing
held in both my hands.
Then I don’t feel like a ghost.
Like how the night-screaming only stopped
after I told you my secret.
And one day
I will even tell you
how strangely
I have loved you (yes.)
but not today.
Love can be tyrannical.
I need to see your neurons
to believe in you. You know,
love is not god.
This paradox staggered me
when I ran into it.
See how love gazes
and holds its breath.
Blinks out its small code.
Startling. So sure,
there are many ways
to say I love you,
but reticence is not one.

Forfeiture is not one.
Neural constellations might be one.
Let’s see. Do not be afraid
of me. The last thing I want to do
is hurt you, but

you step towards the door

and I say, wait
and you say, for what?
and you don’t know it yet, but this
is your very last


When you latch onto me, 
I can feel your heart 
writhing, and mine too, 
reaching. Tightens like any muscle.
But inside the body there is no light.

Standing in front of the mirror 
is a barren errand. Most mornings
I barely resemble myself;
it's like waking up with a stranger. 

I realize that you too 
have a profound misrepresentation of me
as someone delicate and sick 
and needing to be nourished:
looks underfed, looks like a trapdoor,

looks like someone
who owns nothing in the world. 
So what. I prefer 
to surround myself with little.
I let you overestimate
my fragility. I like 
to look like prey. 
Unlike you, always trying to need more than you need.
Never learning that accumulation
only makes you lonelier. 

I am going to break you 
of that habit, just wait.

I am going to rearrange
your insides
until they are exactly to my liking.
You're not even pretending
to resist.

Just wait until I smile at you 
with my teeth. Oh yes,
what a lyrical, lilting laugh I have.
I can see how nervous you get.
But you never just go home.

I know exactly what it is
that you want me to give you,
but I don't want to give it. 

This is not an attempt to be cryptic:
you aren't going to get what you want.

You don't even know what you want.
Really. You should just go home. 

Even if we are alike, 
my dark is darker 
than your dark. 
Swallows it whole.

I'll create more dearth inside of you
than I've ever sated.

Don't follow me. Don't look at me
head on. The desire for nourishment
can be nourishment itself. That's why.
When you look at me, I start changing
your insides. A look can do that.

My eyes take on a new wetness to them. 
Don't follow me. Don't go
where I am going. 

There is no bottom to my depth. 
And inside the body
there is no light.
You just keep falling.

I have an idea.

It's a bad idea. Of course.
I most love my bad ideas.
It involves you, of course.
And something
I can't take back.

What makes this idea
a bad one. Is it
the irreversibility.
Is it the momentum.
Does that scare me. 
How actuality

Even if
you like my idea,
it could still play out
explosively. Bang. Up
in flames or
slow burn. Either way.
This thought terrifies
and excites me.

I try so hard to be good.
Sometimes I can do it.
When I concentrate very hard.
Until I get restless, or sleepy.
Either way. I start to stir.
Gears start turning.
They can't go
in reverse. I found out.

It is impossible
to sleep easy here.
This polite little town.
Plain as potatoes.
All that snow
awakens something
carnal in me.
Seriously this place 
is paltry as hell. And really just 
a lake of blank faces. A roster 
of common names:

Jennifers. Sarahs. Carolines.

Makes me want
to do something else.
I start getting all kinds
of ideas.

You seem equally
brash. Are you
in the mood
to burn something down. 
I know how.
Want to see.

Laurens. Emilys. Katies.

Makes me want to open
all the windows. Every
door. Let's do something.
Take me somewhere.
When it's dark out.
Black vinyl. LED moon.
I Bet You Look Good
on the Dancefloor.

Can I make you laugh
tonight. Forget
about before.

Rachels. Jessicas. Amandas.

Once they're open,
they don't just close.
The doors, I mean.
You know how they say
Might result
in a bang b-b-bang-go.

I should not
have looked. But I'm looking.
Should we.
Should we.

Annas. Sophies. Marys.

Their dishwater hair. Knockoff coats.
Banal bird tattoos.
Even the snow is muddy.
I'm bored. I've been thinking
about you. It gives me
ideas. It gives me
nightmares. Either way. Should we.
Should we. What do you think
about. When you are
tired. When you are
in your house. Should we.
Should we.
Will we.
Do you want to.
Tell me.
Will we.

Sit Still Until I Finish Your Portrait


will i always digress?  i think so
impossible not to
as i am
a wistful type

and forgetful

i only wanted
to watch you.


first love always begins
with this sincerity, 
perhaps because
its earnestness 
curtails my other desire 
to possess.

what is the point
of so much silence?

let's talk about something else:
let's reimagine a story
where we both
say the right thing
at the right time

i've seen you do it before

i swear,
it is a sure thing

stop turning around

try to believe me


can i have some more?  it's so good.
for once i don't feel so empty

"less" is a word
that keeps coming back
and over

it is the perfect example
of something regretful:
i know what i did

to get us where we are now.
look, i don't feel good about it

i was bored stiff. that's why
i was so distant and agitated;
why i looked so small. it's why
i noticed someone else across the room,
just the kind of guy 
i like. 

be jealous.
i liked you that way, too

you know it anyway,
that you're really cute?
are you blushing? you are too.
so then who
is in charge here? not
you.  you
seem out of it tonight,
you look like
you had a bad day

those wet lashes

i didn't think

that you would ever
get so hooked,
that you would make
so much of things

but tell me you wouldn't
have done exactly the same
if you were me

tell me


"you're not sad out of the blue.
there have to be reasons."

 there's a reason.

"come on."

 i'm coming.

"stop torturing yourself."

 it's over. all settled.
 i'm sorry. i swear i am.


i'll finish my drink first,
then i'll come. i'll watch
first, then i'll come.

so i followed you
out of the bar. i followed you
into a bar. i followed
a crocodilian instinct
i had about you.

why are you here
all alone? being good.
your type is so rare,
that's why i followed you.

i followed you
because you have a pretty name,
in latin it means

i could be so serious back then

only cared about art and language
i didn't know much,
but i liked it.  all of it
especially egon schiele,
picasso and schiele. i'm lousy
at english, so i linger on the art
and only watch movies with subtitles.
in fact, i love english actually.
oh i can't remember.
anderson, scorsese, aronovsky,
i could go on
but i'll try not to.

am i even allowed to be here?
i wont talk
more than five minutes.
i'll just get that dead look
in my face.

doesn't it make you happy?
i so rarely
do anyone else's portrait.
"the mysterious weakness
of men's faces"
and that sort of thing. instead
i have obsessed myself
with richter. it does me good.
the rigorousness
of his brush strokes,
those wide commitments.


how does that look?
it's strange because it's you
and it isn't you.
i have to go.

you don't have to like it.

someone wolf-whistled
on my walk home.


i always prefer to be clear.
but don't tell me
to relax.
you just jumped
down my throat
do you realize? when
you mentioned

a pathological scruple
and what is that? does that
mean gravity? like how
everything in nature
is perverted, and vice versa.
the opposite
of right-mindedness.

"are you following any of this?"

i can follow this, i am
living this.
i'm alive and
i will do anything

really its scary

"so you're voracious?"

you can't even imagine.

"i can see."

can you see me
clearly, i don't want to know.
it's nice
being here.
a little too nice.
that smile.

i admit
i was shaking
i was tired
but i didn't give up

i told my bones to go
i went 

big words. to love.


i am still studying the anguish
in schiele's oeuvre.
those delicate nudes,
emaciated and grotesque,
in such unlikely positions.

twisted, obscure,
something very dark.

i've tried to keep that out
of your portrait
but it never works. 

better not
to tell it
slant, actually

better to embrace
one's own disfigurements
with an emotional directness
that makes others want
to look away

pleasure being so obvious,
and so obviously tangential
to torture

is it ever possible
for pleasure to be shared?
unlike pain,
it is not a competition

even my portraits
are really

it is part
of my wistfulness


"The past isn't dead. It isn't even in the past." 
-- William Faulkner

The past should go away, but it doesn't.
Even if you try to throw it out
with all my perfect cursive notes 
and the white IKEA furniture. There is still 
the insomnia, a few mottled bruises 
rotting on the inside of your sternum. 
You once told me there was no such thing
as a heartache, so now I feel no obligation
to resolve anything. 

The past should go away, but how can it? 
Once I went hunting for your loneliness,
and I found it,
my round breath sewing loops
right through you.

Everything that happened
is still happening and happening.

The past should go away, but instead 
it waits for you, motionless,
like a flood at the bottom 
of your basement steps.

You. You breathed out like a map.
You said worship; you meant it.

The past is merciless, fills 
every recess of a heart;
fills all the holes in the sky
where there should be stars. 

The past should go away, but it follows you home
like a starving junkyard dog
with something dead in its mouth.
Haunts you. Looks like you:
covered in filth and eating 
from the garbage. You've always
been a mangled stray, desperate
for affection or a warm bed to sleep in.

In that case, the past is a chain
for you, dear.
You wear it snug around your throat, dear.

See how the past covers you like daybreak. 

The past should go away, but it keeps unfolding slowly
like a dense fog falling off the stage,
breaks open like a night of locusts.

I once brought you there, 
to my garden of drowning violas.
Led you, lured you. Halfway.
Left you there alone. Then
just when you began to see a crack of light,
I stepped in your path, 
closed my eyes
and swung the blunt object.

Your head aching like 
a broken heart.

The past should go away, but it won't 
stop breathing; such an intolerable 
black assault of wheezes.

The past looks right at you with its eyeless face,
as it drags itself across the floor,
pulls the knife from its belly
and threatens you with it.
Laughs darkly. Rotting wood
where there should be teeth.

You asked why I was crying,
and I said it was because 
I was so happy 
with such earnestness 
that even I believed it.

The past keeps spinning
on its demon carousel. 

You feel guilty because
you are guilty.

The past should go just away,
but it hangs from the beams
and sleeps upside-down inside of you.
Wakes up and immediately
starts beating all its wings.

Scrapes against the rust on your heart,
and makes a bony sound. 

The past should go away, but it never does.
It isn't even over yet, it's barely
even started, dear.