To Her

At the bottom of a bottle, I wrote you a dream—
a singular frame in a serpentine reel
built piecemeal upon these muted nights.
Each time
I sink to these depths, or burn to the end of the sulfur tunnel,
I realize with a shock how much time
has passed,
would have been bequeathed to you,
would have eroded me into a looking-glass self.
Our scenes are discomfiting in their hollowness
yet transfixing in their opaqueness: rooms of
dingy smoke,
the nuanced anger of self-blame,
the unwashed grime of despised touch;
an underscoring shade of apology
that this cliché was the best we could create.


in the beginning were explosions. jarring bursts. massive light and noise heavy as confessions sharp as revelations sometimes in pounding series sometimes. anxiously irregular. waterless tempests howling turmoil scene after scene. flames to ashes to flames again recycling promises of redemption. mistake. vomit and viscera. distort images to pinprick static. mistake. violence to serenity to blood rush to violence. mistake. heat of whispers reverberating peaking to nightmares. forced abstracted self full of sutures. stink of sweat and burning fat and. mistake to remember and forget and remember again endlessly long and with such intensity. and then—everything melted—converged to a single point—hesitated just a second for last calls, last resorts—

I met Sibyl on the street corner. The Hanged Man, the Fool, and the Empress reversed. Even in her forcibly reclaimed youth, she was still weary and worn beyond comprehension; her tenebrous eyes retained their vacuum gaze. So many had passed through, pursuing their own means until they tired of her. Until she was the last to forgive and be forgiven. I wanted to tell her I was so sorry. We stared at each other for a long time, silent in our understanding. Eventually she pointed me toward our makeshift Polaris, herself remaining firmly in the position she had been holding all the while.

—and winked out of existence. 


the land gave an impossibly heavy sigh and a great horde was unburdened all at once, a scattershot of souls released to wander across innumerable landscapes and topologies. one roamed a desert for many years; another, a frigid tundra; yet another, the depths of a forsaken sea… on and on, so many radials blossoming from the origin in a strange and unnerving fractal. each dragged one foot in front of the other, half-conscious, understanding only a blind imperative to continue ever forward, away and apart, like marbles rolling from a dropped pouch. occasionally one’s arc would overcome this punishing reverse magnetism and loom closer to another’s path. the two would slow and gravitate briefly, try in vain to share their pasts and all they had seen—but having not enough words or time or energy or empathy, they would part again and mourn that which they could never know. some would encounter the same others more than once, while others would never even come to know that convergence was possible. on and on they each walked, carving vast swaths across the land, an ageless patchwork of incredible beauty and complexity forming beneath their weary feet.


tokyo embraced me like an estranged mother, all warmth and familiarity and unconditional welcome. half-mad notions burst from reunion’s glowing ardor and coursed through a mind still floating tenuously in the outer rings of the hour: reasons for staying, reasons for leaving, projections and fantasies on the other side of the dawn. this time I could do things differently, and we could be different. better. but prolonged absences have an uneasy tendency to create new, unreliable realities from the fog of long-lost memories—and a mother’s love can be heavy, our relationship asymptotic. as that initial glow faded, the hug of early september heat became stifling and overcompensating, and this love made me drained and wary yet again. oh, but it was love, undeniably so; despite the years spent so comfortably apart, it always would be.

A poem I’ve read and reread so many times

Today again a thought goes hunting for a word.

A word filled with venom, sultry with honey,
heavy with love, and smashing with fury.

The word of love which is brilliant as a glance,
which greets the eye like a kiss on the lips,
bright as a summer river, its surface streaming
gold, joyous as the moment when the beloved
arrives for the appointed meeting.

The word of rage which is a ferocious blade that
brings down for all time the oppressor’s
citadel. The word that is dark as the night of
a crematorium; the one, if I bring it to my
lips, would blacken them forever.

Today every instrument is forsaken by its melody,
and the singer’s voice goes searching for its
singer. Today the chords of every harp are
shredded like a madman’s shirt. Today the
people beg each gust of wind to bring any sound at
all, even a lamentation, even a scream of anguish,
or the last trump crying the hour of doom.

Today again a thought goes hunting for a word.

– Faiz Ahmad Faiz; translator/interpreter unknown


the dreams have returned—tenebrousness lurking and shifting in my periphery, twisting corridors and labyrinths, viscous black waters. sunless woods where you and I met after eons of journeying separately and alone—how could I begin to tell you all that I had seen and felt and done, all that had been done to me, the shedding of vestiges and exoskeletons until devolution left behind this sibylline form you behold before you now—the stifling weight of iron ages, memories, frost on the panes. and this ancient anger with its Maslovian heritage—everything else that came before too easy, primordial, so we climbed to the top of the pyramid only to uncover this frightful, impossible anger. exhumed violence. severed lines, collapsed shapes, slashed geometry, sinister splinters spiderwebbing through the dread—I cannot sleep and I cannot wake—

I Set Sail with Theseus

another suburbia scrolled past me at thirty-five miles per hour

and I thought about another life that could have been,
neither better nor worse.

a different view from my bedroom
a veranda, windowsill flora

a rearranged daily routine, dietary habits, wardrobe,
sketchbooks, tree types, traffic patterns, color spectra,
a transfigured cityscape silhouette at dusk

rewritten histories: school, ambition, degree, career,
friends, community, new family additions,
chain-linked decisions, wings and hurricanes,
our accumulated choices leading us here, now,
a path that self-effaces yet still holds
the potential to split off, branch out, blossom
like colonies of blood vessels sprawling out toward unseen ends

whether these would have been enough
to change even this skeletal framework, this face,
these rhythms hormonal, circadian, cyclothymic

and if you transplanted all of these,
everything physical and immaterial
transient and permanent,
one or some or all at a time,
would a new individual


sleep plays coy tonight, wavering in my periphery like some vestige of a drug-induced haze. insomnia, rare and bewildering as sunlight during a storm, assumes an unsettling hold over this domain and thrusts open the gates. and here they come. here comes now the mad horde of ghosts, the past lives and connections and emotions and meanings and dead, dread weight. there was a time, incredibly, when every single one of these was so vital and significant, warm to the touch. now how they mingle and blur like rain, cascading all around my crumpled form in cold sheets. their once vibrant colors have been reduced to grey shades, yet their requiems remain always audible in the depths of memory, quiet rolling thunder with bursts of chaotic tempests. they keep crashing in in waves, a staggering swarm of them, and oh! how they clamor, how they leave me restless here in this echo chamber of steps and shadows.


take me back to the unreal city. I have no interest in remaining out here any longer, in the burning expanses, dried and withered like old fruit. there is nothing left for me here. take me back down to the sinking depths, one weary solemn step at a time, the light behind us fading like memories of the epoch before and those before that one. under this light their touches have faded, their faces blurred, their words melted and become grotesque. it is an unbearable horror to stay and be reminded perpetually of what should have been. return this sybil below, back within the safe dark confines of her jar, away from all of this.

The Tinder Games

This latest match has wavy black hair, sweet blue eyes, and perky tits that she shows off in low-cut tops and dresses in all her photos. According to her profile, she is nineteen years old and lives twenty-two miles away—probably a student at the state college. One picture features a small, pampered-looking Pomeranian; I decide to use this as the ice-breaker.

Hey there. Cute dog, what’s its name?

My eyes linger on the screen for a few seconds, and then I put the phone down on the table and pour a glass of water. When I return to the sofa, I see that I’ve already gotten a reply.

Lucky! He’s my long distance boyfriend lol 😍

I shift my eyes from the phone to the television and absentmindedly watch the news for a few minutes. It is still early in the conversation, and I don’t want to seem overeager. After a riveting story on some subway station crime, I turn back to the match.

Long distance, huh?
Let me guess. You’re in college, and Lucky’s back home. 😔

I had read somewhere that men who flirt with emoji were significantly more likely to get what they wanted. So far, it’s worked pretty well for me.

It doesn’t take long for the match to confirm my hypothesis and start flirting back—hard. The match goes from fawning over her dog to making fun of the “boring” boys at her school to telling me the things she would do for me if I were ever to visit. She lives in an off-campus apartment with two roommates who both happen to be away visiting their families, but she doesn’t expressly invite me over. Probably just enjoys teasing.

We gradually ramp up our messaging relays to a steady and rapid pace, dropping all coy pretenses of being cool and detached. Eventually:

All this talk is turning me on
And making me hungry at the same time 😂 😂
I could really go for some pizza

I know what’s coming. This has been much easier than expected.

Sorry, guess I tend to have that effect on people. 😇
Wish I could take you out to dinner in person tonight.
How about you let me buy you a pizza instead?

The reply arrives nearly instantaneously.

Would you really?
That’d be amazing!!
Your so sweet

A beautiful girl like you should never go hungry.
What would you like and what’s your address?

1449 broad st #5a
Could you get me a large pie with sausage and peppers
From Frankie’s
Thanks a bunch 😁

Should be there in about 45 minutes.

Lol omg I can’t believe you actually did it!
Too funny, I love it
Thanks again, your the best!!!

Haha I know, I’ve never done anything like this before either.
Hey I gotta go…
But enjoy your pizza! Talk to you later. 😆

Precisely forty-five minutes later, I ring the doorbell of 1449 Broad St, #5A, in the college town. I’m wearing a generic-looking polo shirt and old, faded jeans, carrying the box of a pizza I really did order—and paid for in cash upon pickup. The match excitedly opens the door, wearing a tank top and shorts and looking just as beautiful as she does in her profile pictures. This is going to be so good.

I abruptly push my way into her apartment, shoving her aside and startling her. “Hey, asshole! What do you think you’re doing?” I drop the pizza box on the floor. Quickly, I yank away the arm she is extending toward me, pull the switchblade from my pocket with my other hand, and slide it smoothly across her throat. She crumples to the floor and stares at me in horror, unable to speak. Rivulets of blood escape from the gash and seep into the carpeted hallway. So beautiful, and so easy.

Kerry and I liked to play what we called “Tinder games.” It started when we were hanging out at my place one night, drinking wine and talking about a hot guy in our sociology class who may or may not have just broken up with his girlfriend and been making sneaky glances at Kerry and/or me. Following some silly thread of logic that I assure you made much more sense in the moment, in order to settle this, we decided to get on our phones and see who could get a match on Tinder first.

After that, we changed our profile settings to look for girls, and we raced to see who would get the first lesbo match. The variations and rules got more and more complicated as time went on: the first to match with a guy with specific features, with someone at least fifty years old, with someone who would have a funnier reply to the same message, and so on.

Our latest challenge was to get some random person on Tinder actually to buy us something. We figured this would kill two birds with one stone: provide great entertainment, and get us free stuff. Just a couple hours after we agreed on this, I matched with a decently cute blond guy named Jeff, who had a super nice and friendly-looking smile. Last seen: twelve minutes ago.

He messaged me a few minutes later, asking about my dog Lucky. They always asked about Lucky, but I never got tired of it. I figured some guys probably needed more help with ideas for conversation starters—and anyway, I would never get tired of talking about my baby! I told Jeff that I went to the state college and missed Lucky very much because he was back home with my parents.

Jeff was pretty sweet and easy to talk to, but also seemed kind of passive and easy to whip. He seemed like just as good a candidate as any for our game. I texted Kerry:

Think I got one! Let the tinder games begin 😂

I started hinting at Jeff that he should come visit sometime. I lived in an apartment off campus, not in a dorm that would have annoying key-card swipes and stuff, so I told him it would be fun and convenient. It’s easy to get guys to be more willing to do stuff for you when you get them thinking about sex! Then I changed gears suddenly and told him I was hungry.

Wish I could take you out to dinner in person tonight.
How about you let me buy you a pizza instead?

Could it be? This was a lot easier than I thought! I told him the name of my favorite pizzeria and gave him my address, and he replied right away that my order was on its way. Ha, this was awesome! What a sucker! I texted Kerry some more:

Just got some guy from tinder to buy me 🍕!!
Wanna come over and have some and bask in my victory?

I was actually starving, so I was quite excited for my free pizza. What on earth did girls do for fun before Tinder?

Based on the ostensibly true story, Girls Are Shamelessly Using Tinder To Get Guys To Buy Them Pizza.