Poetry & Prose

museum of steel rosaries, and burning film

ART BY ZED VAN DER LINDEN

what remains of something in this world
when it only exists in a photograph? when it burns
in the hearth, unreplicated and unremembered?

destroying evidence while meticulously recording its existence,
calculated and unforgiving, removing all trace, hair by hair by hormone
until i fear being useless to them, to those who watch, waiting to feed

jumping in for the taking, their teeth marking territory, feigning desire—or masking it
they bite and kiss and say they didn’t mean it, that none of it was real.
decide they hate the taste of blood only after i paint my lips red.

how even in trying to kill
that which gnaws at my wrist,
i feed it from my open palm.

how even that which i fear so deeply, i follow
defenseless into the dark with my hands clasped tight
at my sides, at my back—at its service.

how even at the very altar of my salvation, i kneel down
and pray to the chains around my ankles, prisoner’s rosaries,
take pictures of myself for them, make copies, take proof

of this wartorn body, conserved for an audience i wish would not exist,
would chance past my ruins without a second look, never lay eyes on my skin
but who in every act i serve even now—spectators unseen and unyielding.

how long can one hate something before they end up living for it?
a moth to the flame, but with eyes clenched shut—crouching and covered in ash,
terrified of fire but still hungry for warmth, digging bare-handed for embers.

deep in the rough rests a diamond, looking for strength in the rock,
scratching its own likeness into its unfinished surface, deep enough to stay there
long after it is polished, carved heavy—its very image a scar in its future.

a woman, still throwing herself into the fire
hoping one last time to burn off the man, if only
to save the ashes, to show everyone, to prove to them

how beautifully he burned.