Back in the analog age
when my eyes were still new,
I used to call myself an artist
and someone believed me.

He challenged me to a duel,
and we drew pens. (Pun intended).
He drew a line in black ink,
snaking around shapes
of buildings, people, trees.
I followed it around the corner,
curious where it would lead.

I followed it all the way into the subway.
Sometimes I drew things back.
The city opened around me
like the glass teeth of a mosaic dragon
breathing smoke and the fires of sunsets
between buildings. their underground organs
pumping and hissing with hydraulic precision.

I was so young.

I saw the world in colors,
exploding without borders,
trickling from my skin.
I coughed from pastel dust.
It was too much.
I needed lines.
I couldn’t keep it all in.

Like a cat, I chased the string.
The ball of yarn unraveled
from the world into his eyes
into the relentless spider of his mind,
spinning out black silk threads
sticky with imagination
from hand to pen
through his fingers and into my lap
where they laced around me,
a corset of dreams.

I was a captive audience.

When he set me free, I’d run across the rooftops
in superhero practice, leaping tall buildings
with a single bound.
Sometimes I’d fall, and he’d draw me a net.
Or an army of monsters to chase me,
or magic pistons to break the sound barrier.
Sometimes I fell on purpose
just so he’d draw faster
and I’d let the rope pull tighter,
ducking into the shadows
where he’d sneak up with a sock puppet
to scare me, and then laugh
and roll me into an ink cocoon.
I’d dance around the spinning air vents
throwing glitter and colored powders.
on the cars and people below.

I’m growing older
but my colors are even brighter now.
They’ve become cut glass; I have no choice
but to touch them until I bleed.
My late afternoon light
burns reflections in skyscrapers
I still remember from those early springs.
I wake up each morning and paint myself
with butterfly dust,
wondering how long I have left
before it’s too late to grow contours.
I ask myself if I’ve loved enough,
if I’ve touched enough hands,
if I’ve vandalized enough property
and broken enough rules.
I didn’t come here to color in the lines,
I came here to scandalize.
Have I spent too long painting by number?
Has the world worn down my wings?

The gold in my iris remembers.
All of this. The way his pen traveled
through continents of paper,
running stop signs and red lights
until it filled the margins of the world.

I’m raising an artist now. It’s work.
At the end of the day, I still dream.
At night, I still leap across rooftops—
spilling my pigments,
searching for ink spots,
chasing these wild ones
with their dangerous magic.
I’m searching for the thread I never really lost,
stumbling into the warmth
of their fires.
I feed them the bread of iridescence.
I love to watch them burn.

© Psyche Marks 2019


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