Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.
- Bertolt Brecht.


These are really old, but I'm posting them anyway, and adding to them at some point. College yearbook photos of sorts. A lot of these are about dealing with depression. In case anyone can relate. Click on each title to read the poem.


This is a sonnet that I literally composed in my sleep and remembered almost in its entirety in about 2012. I found it years later scrawled on the back of a page of jewelry designs I was working on. I was thinking about how our brightest, longest days are the shortest, darkest ones for the Australians, and how everything has another side to it.

        The seeds of age and death are sown in youth.
        It's in the pitchest black that fire's spark
        Will brightest glow, illuminating truth
        The yin-yang knows: no light without the dark.

        Each victor's triumph, some other's defeat.
        Each bliss some sorrow's shadow will consume.
        The sun itself collapse, its light retreat.
        The night is day's inevitable tomb.

        Though spring is born from winter's silent frost,
        Each month the darkness swallows whole the moon.
        The balance of the equinoxes lost
        To unseen cruelty solstice casts in June.

        For even summer sun's most brilliant height
        Is some most distant stranger's darkest night.
The Lovesong of Mr. Dhuyvetter

Sophomore Honors English: 8:50 – 9:30 AM. An homage to my geeky, bow-tied and bespectacled English teacher, Mr. Dhuyvetter. I'll never forget him reading this Eliot poem, one of my favorites, written when Eliot was only 26 (amazing). This won't make sense without reading T.S. Eliot's The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock and Edward Arlington Robinson's Richard Cory.

        His jacket is penny loafer brown today.
        Not the tweed one he usually wore
        The one that hinted at pipe smoke
        And derailed dreams of Ivy League tenor.
        His bow tie same as always.
        Richard Cory he was to me
        crisp, well-dressed,
        "Clean favored and imperially slim."
        Too boring for the bullet though.
        Void of drama, just a void.
        Straight edge for a smile.
        But this morning he stood at the nicked podium
        Like Martin Luther King – to testify:
        "Come to tell you all."
        His bow tie barely restraining the words
        Throttled in his throat. "I have come to tell you all."
        The patron saint of Honors English
        Where peons were poets, and the promise
        That under the acne and warbled villanelles
        Were smooth skin and sleek verse...
        But the bullet sang today.
        At the podium, the book – then he
        Fell open. Open to his private confession,
        "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock."
        The pages parted and the spine bent so easily
        There. As if they knew. But it was useless
        The book I mean. Because he knew every line
        As though he’d read it – lived it
        A thousand awkward nights. The peon stood before us
        With the desperate dignity, the passion
        Of a man frayed and fallen
        And unraveled himself with every line.
        Second in his class... almost, almost
        The vice president. The fumbling friend
        Who drove the ugly girl home after the party
        He wasn’t invited to because of some small oversight.
        His name misspelled (or absent) on every guest list.
        Dorothy Parker’s "Minor Poet"
        And don’t you think he didn’t know it.
        Forced to read again, again, immortal words
        His pen just wouldn’t write.
        "I am not prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be."
        And the semesters roll on and into each other
        Nudging him forward as his hairline recedes.
        And the students flicker in and out
        And onto books he’ll never write
        (But there’s still time! There’s still time!)
        And into circles he’ll never know
        (But he can say, "I knew him when…!")
        And – one by one – check off the To Do List
        Of things he’ll leave undone.
        And his wastebasket filled with failed attempts.
        "That’s not what I meant, at all."
Diary of Frances Bean

"The next day, I went for a run along the ocean... Twenty minutes in, I stopped beside some wood - you know, planks - that someone had made to spell BYE KURT. I took a breath, looked up at Seattle, and wondered: What didn't he see? And if I've ever been to a vigil, I guess. . . that . . . was it." - Bruce McCulloch on the Cobain vigil in Seattle.

I remember where I was when MTV announced that Kurt Cobain had been found dead. My roommate was watching the TV and I was in my room half-asleep. I thought I'd dreamed it and staggered into the living room to discover the sad truth. I thought about his daughter - forced to grow up in his shadow, with his ghost.

        My infant eye too weak to make the imprint of your face, 
        I’m left to gather the fragments of your splattered genius. 
        Sound bites and photographs arranged to forge your shadow 
        They smell of bleach and dust, not Daddy. 
        Your disciples pose in straight and patient lines 
        Exchanging flannels for silk 
        Eyes motionless, their glint of rebellion now glossed with stupor. 
        They dismiss me 
        Unaware that in my genes lie dormant 
        Their expelled demons and evaporated youth. 
        You are their forgotten legacy, as I am yours. 
        As I grow old, you become my child 
        In death forever young 
        In youth forever dead. 
        Groping in the darkness for memory 
        At the threshold of slumber 
        I let your fingers brush my forehead 
        Their smell of Pampers and hot gun metal. 
        You sing me to sleep tonight 
        Much as you did then. 
        Daddy with a volume control.
        my head scraped to the very last seed 
        I slunk on my mental porch 
        powerless to move 
        limbless and lightless 
        my candle extinguished 
        by the night’s numbing winds. 
        the eleventh month strikes 
        and I am left to rot 
        amidst the bitter wrappers 
        of others’ sweets. winter whistles 
        through my eyes and nostrils 
        vacant triangles cruelly carved 
        now pointless, lidless and defenseless 
        against starvation of the senses. 
        the flickering flame they guarded 
        fluttered with the slightest breath 
        but boldly flung its fragile brilliance 
        through their paneless portholes. 
        the world in fire and shadow cast 
        the evening a kaleidoscope 
        of autumn scents and visitors 
        and the warmth of a capricious light 
        that bathed them all in flecks of life 
        but wax grows tired and wicks burn out 
        and the candle, snuffed, is useless 
        as the eyes and nose it glimmered through 
        now windows to a tomb.                 
        a cause
        a resolution
        an explanation
        forever sealed in
        that impenetrable moment before
        the switchbang distortion that bends the tv
        into techicolor taffy- foozy drizzles of electronic snow
        that twink your lashes and slack the muscles in your neck
        nitrous trampoline high then (blink) dropsleet blanket
        that smothers you -silent - in nuclear winter.
        chemical warfare’s latest mutation
        emotional mitosis
        mental arsenals
        align at either
        pole, each hoping
        to blast his estranged brother
        across enemy lines into the stratosphere
        poles shift, North and South, floor and ceiling
        you burrow and claw through shag-rug and shingles
        toward an inner equator, once a wide haven of equilibruim
        now pinched to a corset by your cold and angry Artics
        whose cruel latitudes sprout only skyscrapers
        of frost. and what black winter blizzards
        bring, a meager summer sun
        can never melt away,
        only bleach an ever
        more blinding white.
        but that was yesterday.
        Today your pigtails are pointing North.
        You remember exploding like a drop-kicked soda
        when examined and grilled like a three-legged pig. but now
        you ask, nerves raw, cells burnt. ‘A just cause?’ -No, just ‘cause.
        “chisel a smile, pigtails, someday you’ll grow enough to
        reach things like locks, switches and doorknobs.”
        but the horizon is a yawning chorus line
        of todays. so you watch
        sleet-eyed, tongue-tied
        as the carousel whrils
        and the dizzying mirrors
        reflect a disjointed fun-house smear
        of a dark horse and queasy rider hurdling thin air
        as though it were a thorny hedge. how ridiculous you look
        a girl tied to a horse tied to a pole tied to a caroucel that circles
        and circles and circles like a weary hound but never stops
        and curls to sleep. a frenetic duet of marionettes
        at a flea circus that never ends - but
        it’s an easy jump when the
        horse is low on the pole.
        Point and Shoot.
        the Nikon answer
        for the complicated made easy:
        curl of a finger and everything stops in mid-
        Life's tattoos and rites of passage 
        Diaries etched in code whose lines erode
        and slowly slough with time. 
        Their rough and raw descendants form in kind. 
        A badge of courage, mark of shame, an overzealous dare 
        Remembered there. A symbol of the guts to play the game. 
        Mysteries to unravel, leather keloid gemstones
        Kicked among the gravel of the battlefield my body has become. 
        I've auctioned off my breasts and flung my legs like easy scissors 
        But their rough and ruddy ridges remain mine and mine alone 
        Their beauty’s merely skin deep,
        but their downright ugly penetrates the bone. 
        Haloed discs and jagged lines, Kandinsky's palette 
        Written in my flesh. Symbols of man and woman dueling for dominion. 
        They attest to every cigarette burn, drunken tumble,
        careless slice with a rusty knife. 
        The elements of life 
        That carve my unfolding biography
        in my mismatched topography. 
        When once in ten or twenty years 
        One altogether up and disappears from view 
        Like often, as a child, I had hoped they might 
        Its phantom lingers like a missing limb or severed finger 
        To remind me there was something there. An episode of life.                    
        my father’s right hand smells of sweat and raw leather
        when it drops the tennis racket and wraps its calluses
        around an ice-clouded mug of beer
        his grip burns the frost from the handle
        its white film receding like a glacier in summer’s heat
        my hands smell of chain link and tree sap
        too small to hold a pencil, they are callused
        (a row of islands or little pitcher’s mounds)
        only by the metal hoops of my very own swing set
        two posts and a crossbeam of splintery wood
        that crackles in the August sun like the prow of an old pirate’s ship
        wood dark and dry as Indian clay, nailed together with my father’s hands
        that sling a duffel over his shoulder as he heads for the court
        and toss themselves high in mock despair when he returns to find me
        still the happy pendulum marking the hours - 10 a.m. till three, or five
        a kite kicking the leaves down the back bank
        beyond the row of shrubs that divide worlds like turnstiles.
        below, vines weave their way down the weedy hillside
        a net to trap a small animal
        who dares extend a paw or a patent leather shoe.
        but my bare feet swoop above the trees
        catch their transparent leaves with my toes
        my curls sweep the grass as I stiffen like a plank
        stretching my toes toward the sky, taking aim
        the way Babe Ruth pointed to the cheap seats
        before he launched the ball into orbit.
        Somewhere or other I fold myself
        Crumpled into the atmosphere
        Of xeroxed days
        Whose margins soften, blend,
        Then harden again into timeless boulders
        That push up the hill
        only to roll indifferently down again,
        Carving trenches, dissolving into epochs
        Whose weight crawls over my back
        The procession of equinoxes
        Marching relentlessly up my spine.
        It curls me forward
        My face to the grass
        The sun-warmed blades touch my eyes
        That flutter awake to see your name
        Scraped and carved into the tanned back
        Of one empty hand,
        Carefully etched
        Deeply, desperately by the other.                    
        Take back your gifts. 
        What good is inspiration wrapped in paralysis? 
        You kidnapped me, a reluctant bride
        Forever saddled with the weight of your name,
        The fickle whip of your passion
        That may claim my talents (my life?), but never my consent.
        Winds shift and I wake to the smell
        Of the hunt. The air thick with betrayal.
        Breaking and entering, searching and hovering 
        You crawl into the cave of your familiar prey. 
        Your two faces veiled in a thicket of shadows.
        One fist beats me senseless, the other full of flowers 
        Knowing I'll bend to keep you from breaking. 
        And while I'm bent, your hoof on my back 
        You skin me and offer me my own hide 
        Draping my shoulders as though it were a gift. 
        My refuge and my assassin, a walking paradox 
        So deep in my blood, without you I am not I. 
        And what if nothing could close the hole of your absence? 
        Is it better to be sometimes tortured than always pedestrian?
        I've grown accustomed to you 
        Comfortable baggage whose weight I bear 
        In hopes the cramped and wrinkled visions within 
        may someday iron out. A bad habit I relish 
        Destined to wander your mountains and valleys
        With flowers in my hair and thorns in my feet.
        Your are a perennial weed 
        that strangles my buds to make them bloom.
        Let me loose but not go 
        Slip your grasp from my neck to my hand 
        And let me stumble a mile in my shoes. 
        Our chemistry my bond of faith 
        By you alone forever chased and chaste. 
        Be not stranger or lover but treasured and intolerable guest. 
        My doors locked, windows open for your present return. 
        And if time and space spawn a bridge to reconcilement 
        That leads you in my direction 
        Tell me when you're stopping by 
        And I will clear a path that 
        Someday we may walk on even ground.
The Punctured Buoy
        Among the ocean’s waves and white-capped thorns 
        a bouyant world its bobbing head afloat 
        within its walls a punctured buoy born 
        and tossed, to tread for life, from reason’s boat. 
        Caught in circadian riptides, I can feel 
        the lactic acids build. I struggle though 
        my exiled ancestors clip at my heels 
        my flailing mute against the undertow. 
        Surrendering, I slide, though keep in sight 
        the water’s waning surface, senses loath 
        to choose between the polar days and nights 
        but foolish indecision loses both. 
        Loose-limbed and languid, hovering in the death 
        between two lives, afraid to err in choice 
        I hear the liquid anesthesia’s breath: 
        it’s here you drown, inert, without a voice. 
        My dormant gills retrieved, I dive below 
        my cradle in the sea floor’s ancient sands 
        once boulders of torment, that long ago 
        collapsed to dirt, the first marrow of man. 
        Above, the ocean’s canvas, black and still 
        to hurl my inner world upon. A new 
        and violent physics reigns that bends to will 
        and madness, painting them the hue of truth. 
        Yet closer here to life and death. Terrrain 
        that heightens and compels the senses’ crest 
        and final breath to conflict in the veins 
        that nourish life’s intense romance with death. 
        The earth’s a sphere of mirrors - sky and sea 
        a symbiotic whole, yet each to each 
        appears a fractured non-reality 
        incomprehensible and out of reach. 
        Some float, blue-skinned and bloated, to the shore 
        with minds none could dissect, cure or control. 
        I’ll take my chances nearer the earth’s core 
        praying for an amphibious soul.                    
        drift. . . shift. . . consciousness sifts. . . 
        the optic slideshow twisted inward for the night’s digestion 
        slips through an open link in a chain of thought 
        succumbs to black suggestion. 
        the process is subverted, the images inverted 
        and smeared across the wicked spleen of the unconscious 
        and unseen compartments of the prostrate brain. 
        Their shadows flicker, spastic flames 
        on the black canopy that enshrouds a nightmare. 
        alchemy. . . sorcery. . . shadows to mist 
        a phantasmic cloud 
        with the slithered twists of a gaseous snake 
        slanks along the underbelly 
        snickering and hissing and crashes your party 
        sneaking you awake. 
        its shadow fades, and in its place 
        the fragmented splinters of an ancient scream 
        rise like steam 
        from the crevice between carpet and bedroom door 
        come closer. . . closer. . . smell the core. . . 
        lingering in the open threshold 
        shallow breath, trembling flesh 
        pink pajamas on the cusp of the cosmos. 
        voices escape like noxious fumes 
        and curl their spiraling plumes of orphaned tongues 
        around your dangling toes 
        that poke into the stratosphere. 
        their origins unclear. 
        . . . and out of the mist floats the mothership 
        pregnant-hipped, colossal planet 
        angel’s golden throat to the tongues that sing 
        an ivoryswirl harp of a thousand strings 
        or so it seemed. . . 
        for the mist congeals into a ghostly hand 
        whose brittlebone fingers pluck away 
        the human strings, the souls that linger 
        neither saved nor damned. 
        emaciated torsos, taffy limbs stretched taut 
        and bound at either end with hair turned wire. 
        Lucifer‘s choir, a host of agonies 
        caught between here and hereafter 
        a multitude who squeal on key 
        at the demonic whim of their master.
        Another weekly midnight ride past scattered, darkened mini-marts
        toward my fluorescent haven whose sprawling murals
        promise consumer salvation: Pea Soup $.69
        everything as it appeared on television
        under the bzzzz of a sickly alien light whose green sallows the skin
        but makes the asparagus look delicious.
        my cart a skeleton to flesh with fish and blue light specials,
        I wander through a Technicolor tunnel of detergents
        that promise to make America white again.
        And at the back, in voyeur’s windows, pre-packaged flesh - breasts, thighs
        their moist and meaty pinks and reds gift-wrapped in cellophane.
        The single shoppers saché through the fresh vegetable lounge
        amidst stale music, voluptuous honeydews, mist from the lettuce-hose boys.
        a beetle-browed potato-skinned widower spies his match:
        old, pickled, with alfalfa hair, her tan purse stuffed with radishes.
        she fumbles with coupons as a pony-tailed waitress
        sniffs the anus of a cantaloupe, then tosses it
        onto a disheveled heap of Scotch and diet products -
        her cart slowly resembles her like a dog its owner.
        we retrench our unconscious tracks around the maze
        of vegetable bins that bumble us toward each other
        in an absurd ballet of 3-point turns.
        A price check jars me into reality, launching my pilgrimage to aisle 7
        hemmed in by carts and sacred rubber grocery dividers
        I contemplate a last mad dash for deodorant
        calculate time-distance formulas.
        someone drops a can of beets and shatters the polite elevator silence
        a three-piece suit, seizing his chance, furtively eyes the Soap Opera Digest
        an uneasy boyfriend stalks the maxi-pad aisle.
        they UPC, I ATM, and I am funneled past the red-light district
        with its cigarettes, magazines, and candy racks of oral pleasures
        into the food-gorged evening air.
        I arrange my bouquet of doubled plastic bags
        by an inverse scale of weight and fragility
        adjusting for the total cubic volume of my trunk.
        I feel American.
        (purged and discarded, my lonely cart wanders aimlessly toward a Mercedes Benz)
Overexposure (never finished)
        I walked around the bend today 
        something in the air; crickets bickering, the scent of apocalypse 
        a plump, hair-sprayed housewife bursts into flames near a pay phone 
        the first hint of something slightly amiss at the mini-mall 
        I inspect the change return for quarters but my balance is shaken 
        rabid pets rush by me and loot the shops, cats and dogs conspire 
        and make away with high quality, MIDI-compatible stereo equipment 
        Grade A chickens, recently escaped from the smoldering market 
        peel and eat each other raw. they speak in Southern accents 
        and tear each other's skeletons, vying for wishbones 
        religions and discount stores catch fire 
        and K-Mart shoppers barbecue their marshmallow enemies 
        I run back for graham crackers and fudge squares 
        but I am blocked by giggling children playing hopscotch 
        in the chalk outlines of their murdered parents 
        gingerly avoiding the cracks in the parking lot 
        cars at the station shoot themselves up with gasoline 
        and swerve off into the nitrous oxide sunset 
        their cheap vinyl seats split open
        to reveal foam yellow guts and stale cheerios 
        horns laughing green like angry mallards taunt me as I run home 
        tripping over skyscrapers and TV cameras 
        the dam by the nuclear plant stoops to examine the racket 
        and spills a floodlane conveyor belt 
        of dining room tables and smashed in mailboxes by our soggy garage 
        families bob for VCRs, three-headed fish practice synchronized swimming 
        a toupeed game show host dispenses salvation and imitation pork hot dogs
        and we climb on our roofs to look down toward the city 
        snooping for dry chips and the odd catastrophe
All materials copyright 2019 by Kristin Fiore.