My Mother Tries to Comfort Me Over the Phone; Atonement for Longing; If You Kill Me, Make It Vintage

my mother tries to comfort me over the phone

oh, she says something about

“Time” and how it heals all wounds”

over the hiccupping of poor cell service

but does she know that

the only thing Time has ever done is

prove how many years of my life were stolen from me

does she know the way Time has

consistently escaped my grasp

wearing black-and-white stripes,

a ball and chain shackled to its ankle………..

Time is the roadrunner

and I am the coyote getting smushed by anvils

the crowd goes wild when I fall off cliffs

this is a delicate balance

this is how I strike the balance between then and now

I look out my window and sometimes I see myself

working at the grocery store after school

with a flower pinned into my curls

or reciting Sylvia Plath poems at midnight

because I thought I was Timeless

but to be Timeless is a curse

to be Timeless is to float above your

body untethered and boundless

it is the best and most terrible feeling there is

there is no mercy in it

no one to tell you “come back, it’s okay now”

no amount of vitamin E oil

could heal this

I will never look out my window and

not also see myself being

raped at midnight or

working at the grocery store

where a man stalked me

where that same man caught me by

my girl shoulders just outside the meat freezer and said

“you drive me WILD at night

one day I’m going to marry you”

licking his lips in my direction every school day

Time goes away and comes back

with experience badges

and a stiletto heel for stabbing out the sunset

Time makes me gouge out my eyes and

put in new ones so I can see these events

for the first Time again…….

on Halloween when I was twelve

my mother handed me a rape whistle

before I left, and said

“don’t get raped”

and we both laughed for some reason

but did she know then that I already had been?


Atonement for Longing

I want to be that person

the one who gracefully gets out of a pool

and their wet hair looks like an Herbal Essences ad

or a beach photo shoot

I want to have the kind of striking eyes

that cause pedestrians to do double-takes

I want my skin to glow

No, I mean actually glow

like a nightlight caught in quartz

I want to sharpen myself to an infinite point

and sit in the grass

and take up almost no space

but radiate so much light

that astronauts will view me from space

and call it a terrestrial event

I want to burn with the level of energy

reserved for nuclear reactors

I wonder: how much would it take for a body

to become the center of the universe?

I am the center of nothing

and I actually want to be the center of nothing

(because I am a black hole of energy)

because being the center of nothing

is like starring in my very own television show

bound to be canceled

and forgotten

it is like being born to die

in an abandoned but historically preserved castle on a hill

it is like a wheelchair moving on its own

through a hospital ward

it is having diamonds for eyes

which is something I am not entirely sure about

but it feels accurate

I used to want to be a character in a fantasy novel

I used to want to be a beautiful girl who drowned in a lake

I don’t want to drown in a lake anymore

instead, I want to drown in the fantasy of being absolutely perfect

I want to drown in complete apathy toward my body

in atonement for longing

I want to drown in the metaphysical shedding of my self

I want to become the ghost that haunts

the corners of your diamond eyes

and whispers your name in the dark

and takes up no space at all.


If You Kill Me, Make It Vintage


 Finger your pearls in a sultry fashion while you do it

I’m not opposed to the idea of being chloroformed to death

But a burning at the stake is just a bit too antique for my taste

Do it while smoking a cigarette on one of those exceedingly long cigarette holders

Swallow me in your palmy, notorious Hollywood charm

With the flapper girl bob and bathtub gin to match

I want to end up smiling like the Black Dahlia, in a heap of Art Deco limbs

I want to view my corpse from above like it’s film noir

And lavishly say it’s ghost time now


Like how it’s ghost time now in this poem

I know because I can feel it burning through my haunted paper skin

I feel it in my poltergeist underclothes

Which keep getting thrown about without reason and without ceremony

I feel it the way that you sometimes feel like a point of light

Or how I sometimes feel like a point of light

Infinitely sharp and weightless and not quite there    not             quite…………

I want to be decorously transmuted into

Frequency, into spectrum, into air, into orgasm, into whatever

One becomes when they turn into a phantom


If you kill me and make it ghost time

Spare no expense

Make sure you involve absinthe and lace in some way

Do it with vaudeville prewar opulence

Do it as if it is the greatest honor of your life

Do it and I will become nothing

I will take up no space at all

I’ll follow you around a smoky jazz club and whisper your name in the dark

And whisper your name in the dark……sensually

The way only a ghost can

Kill me and make it vintage and

If you kill me well enough

I swear I’ll give us everything we ever wanted


Nikki Caffier Smith is a queer writer based in Brooklyn. She is a Fiction Editor for Cleaver Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Strange Horizons, Kaleidocast, Typishly and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in 42 Stories Anthology. She lives with her partner and their two ill-behaved cats.