Nobody’s Darling

by Sarah Klema '23
Portfolio Staff


Portfolio


Ruby lips descending into salty brine. My lips. Bright light yielding to dark, fathomless depths on a midsummer’s eve where the sweltering heat of the sun still lingers in the damp night air of the goldfields. Eighteen years of growing up in each other’s company, budding feelings finally confessed—only to have the last night marred by the shattered delusion of something we were never meant to be. A first date gone wrong.

That day—the day you watched me die,

what were you thinking?

I know. You were feeling sorry for yourself, for the loss you would have to suffer so early on in your youth, and for having to conjure up an explanation plausible enough to avoid scrutiny: “My Darling Clementine, drowned!”

Does my death yet haunt you? Very well, poor dear, console yourself. Exchange one woman for another; touch is all the same. Rest your brow upon my little sister’s breast—see if it helps you to forget. Forget me. Forget you. You forget yourself.

Not I, though—I will never forget.

Clusters of lanky ash trees lining the brine pools before us bear mute witness as you snake your hand around my waist, seizing me with clammy fingers.

Clementine—kiss me. I can’t contain myself—I love you. You joke, surely, I think, until your fingers fix themselves under the hollows of my jaw, vice-like. I meet your gaze, alarmed by what I see—not the face of a friend, but something strange, twisted.

Your mouth is shaping lovely lies—deceit etched into the corners of your smile. Something heinous lurks there, heretofore unnoticed. I see it clearly now, reflected in your features, some hidden urge burgeoning to the surface. In your eyes a manic glee. Your tongue, a serpent’s tongue, moving to ensnare mine.

If this is love, I want no part of it.

Let go of me—are you insane?! You’re hurting me—

A gasp of breath, a stifled scream, a stumble and a fall. Followed by splashing, flailing. Silence. All at once, the mania flees your face. Not so very bold now. I recognize you again, but it is with

changed eyes. You pause in horror for a spell before departing, thinking I am lost and gone—for good.

I am not lost. Still here, fighting in that one suspended moment where you watch me drown and whimper to yourself, clasping your hands tightly around your arms—arms that were all too quick to release me—or was it push, rather? —as I tripped and fell. I struggle to keep my head afloat as the weight of my woolen dress pulls me down.

Yet, be it the work of some sick miracle or sheer force of will, I can still see your figure—clearly outlined—as my eyes lapse under the slippery film of the water. With piercing scrutiny I trace every movement in your face—those frantic eyes, that pale, trembling jaw…

Why do you tremble so, and not I?

When Were; You and I: A Hedge Stone among the Graveyard of Artistic Demise

by The Cowl Editor


Poetry


sketchbook with people's faces drawn inside
image credits: pexels

By Max Gilman ’25

 

Tell them tales, 

Entwine them with snaring literary truths, 

Yet they slip through, 

They, 

Slip through the spiked thorns amongst them, 

And, 

Carry on, 

And so begins the cycle again, 

Yet the outcome is the same, 

But now, 

They, 

Are experienced in slipping through the thorns, 

What is it man truly yearns? 

Truth? 

No, 

Denial of truth, 

Until, 

Substance is needed, 

What does it mean, 

To run alongside the sun? 

 

Tap, tap, tap, 

Strokes from my hand hit the sides of the metallic desk, 

With a pencil, 

Barely sharpened, 

They listen with thoughts, 

Tap, tap, tap, 

Wandering elsewhere, 

They, the blue people, 

Living blue lives, 

Under blue rays, 

Who never leave the box they exist in, 

Tap, tap, tap, tap, 

I decide to join them, 

In my mind’s blue disillusion, 

Distracted by purposeless truths, 

Those of inconsequential value, 

And there I observe moments of elation, 

Tap, tap, tap, tap, 

 

Blank your mind, 

Make a fool of art, 

For realism’s sake, 

What they say is of no importance, 

They seek truth published by man, 

Constructed in a factory, 

Of partisan labor for the victimized workers, 

Sealed with the blood of the author’s eye, 

And cleansed with the tears of a marginalized citizenship, 

That is the truth they seek, 

And so they live their blue lives now, 

As it has come in accordance, 

Down the line of succession, 

So they take their seat, 

Upon a throne engulfed in blue light, 

Hypnotized by the denial of art, 

 

Tap, tap, tap, 

Oh, 

Quickly I lost control of the pencil, 

As it fell to the ground, 

And embedded itself inside a crack, 

That ran through a spiderweb of cracks, 

And I became entranced, 

Hypnotized by the art, 

 

But what did they see, 

Not art, no, 

Instead they noticed the ground, 

And its need for repair, 

 

Years have passed since, 

The air has grown stale, 

But not a bad stale, 

More like a stale you smell in an old closet, 

With jackets from your older family, 

I stand up from the library steps and walk, 

Strolling down the street I call to you, 

With both hands shuddered away in pockets, 

And ask you to meet me, 

By the entrance to the graveyard, 

 

You thank me for the offer but leave me, 

And so I come to the graveyard alone, 

With a notebook, 

Full of drawings, 

Mostly incomplete,  

But they express how I feel, 

 

I sit by a fallen tree, 

In the moist morning air, 

As the fog rises just above my line of sight, 

As my hand accidentally touches a patch of moss, 

I dust off the palm and open the notebook, 

To see pictures of me running with the sun, 

Sketches I made during class a long time ago, 

 

I look to the sun, 

And wonder how long I must wait, 

Before our cosmic dance together, 

I must wait here as always, 

And reside among the blue people, 

But I too will not prove to be blue, 

No, 

I seek a truth I do not understand, 

For it is not made by man, 

But by truth alone, 

An artistic truth, 

A belief in love, 

 

So accordingly, 

I proceed to flip a new page open, 

And begin to draw, 

What it is I want to see, 

 

Oh, 

But I have forgotten a pen, 

And so I lay down in the graveyard, 

Accompanied by the dead, 

Those who have escaped the blue light, 

And weep, 

For art’s demise, 

And its people, 

Who appreciate it not, 

 

Blue can only go so far, 

And so I pursue life, 

Through a ballad of different colors, 

All wonderful in their own regard.