A portrait of myself as an artist

By | 1 May 2020

For Chloe


I’m in these mountains
alone, bar the magpies and my own
stray thoughts. Cigarette burns
are stitched into the wood of my table,
marking the days between each
bad decision; we know their names
better than our own, we wrote them
onto back of poems, placed them
into shoe boxes under our beds, and swore
to never revisit them again.
But we writers seek intimacy
on the inside of another person.
We burn scars into broken bodies,
onto withered desks, alternate
our drinking habits with the hands
of a clock: sunrise, shiraz and
a fistful of prescription pills;
the lips of a stranger
after five pm: ghosts that unlock
our hidden trauma and don’t try
to make us breakfast
in the morning.


This mountain mist
clears my mind. I start the day
with a cigarette and coffee.
I don’t smoke often, but this feels right.
As if you linger in the smoke,
in the taste of tobacco, nicotine,
an early death. There’s a chair outside
this broken window, knocked over
with its legs pointing toward the sky.
I have no desire to pick it up.
I like it better this way: purposeless
and drunk. This is by no means a metaphor
on your life—or my own. Except,
maybe it is. Maybe we’re both looking for someone
to come and pick us up,
make us right again.
As if we can’t do that ourselves.
As if we can.


These grey skies
are the colour of my dreams.
It’s a good day when I can’t see the sun;
when clouds shield my insecurities
so I don’t have to.
My notebook is a blank canvas.
I stub out a deflated dart and think
of rivers, painting self-portraits
in desolated parks. A cool wind picks up,
makes the leaves in the trees vibrate.
I shiver with them and wish
I was home again. These mountains taste
too clean. When the rain starts,
it pools inside the ashtray
to make the perfect shade of ink
for poetry. This isn’t a metaphor
for your life, or my own.
I swear, it’s not. Except,
maybe it is.

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