A poem by IVY GAO.




you had a daydream in which you begged for someone to stay.


you awoke and they were never there at all.




suspend the world in a sprawling sequence

of atoms, equations, prophecies,

and you’ll see how the shivering spaces between frigid shoulders

decree that you will never be enough —


a side-line, a shadow behind

the edge of the world’s sight.

a half-hissed promise to nobody and nothing

because nobody cares and you are nothing




to any observer,

this reads like a love poem

in which you try to make everyone fall in love with you

and everything dies a little.


the truth is:

the world does not owe you anything, and you know it.

the world is a weary mouthful of ash and shadows.

chew through to the centre of the universe

and you may just find nothing at all.


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there are times you feel like you were born to long for something

flickering at the other edge of a long dull night,

winking out of sight at the other end

of dreamless dissociation.


you think you learned this loneliness

from a nightmare a lifetime ago:

that vague vision of a pair of lovely hands,

and barren-bone ribcage

and a shivering creature who was loved until it felt warm again, and —


you can’t remember the rest.


just that you’ve known this emptiness from a past existence:

this weary flicker of worn nerves means

that your heart has been hungry for a long time.




you should never have put your happiness in the hands of another,

for all it takes to make magic

is the deftest flick of fingers, the sleekest sleight of hand —


for it must have been magic:


for at first you were something

and then someone waved their careless fingers and then you were





exists at the end of the fantasy.


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