Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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city lights like veins

I look down, and there
is a city I know like I know
you, and she’s drifting, fading,
slow. Her limbs, splayed
across the mattress of the earth,
are traced like the contours of a map
with the flickering lights of people’s homes.
The on-and-off shuddering of a child
afraid of the monsters in the closets.
I can almost feel the dips of her thighs
and I wonder if she knows we’re dying,
if I know I’m dying, if I know that I am just
afraid of the dark, afraid that perhaps
I’ll never see her again, and I fly.

The Hoarder

I think you take the way he says your name and 
squeeze it tight.

You roll his voice around,
his voice with the rising lilt of something he calls love
the hopeful stutter at the beginning of your name
that trips away into silence, silence that becomes a word
you don’t know how to pronounce.
You reach into the air and take those sounds,
grip them fiercely, and bring that ball to your mouth.

You swallow his voice because that way
you can keep him inside of you, even when he walks away,
even when he’s in bed with someone else. At least
when he hurts you, you can vomit up everything he said
and remember that he treasured your name.

I think you collect his shivers along his spine
and put them in empty milk bottles that you line up
on the windowsill. You hoard away the involuntary quirks
of his lips and count them when the moon is cold,
and he is out drinking, and your bed is empty.
Because then at least when he doesn’t come home,
you can tell yourself that his body is yours.

And when he hurts you for the final time
and rides off into the sunset like you’d dreamed
on a white horse with a damsel that’s not you,
you’ll tell yourself it was him all along and that you
did nothing wrong. And you didn’t, trust me,
you didn’t.

But if you’d forgotten the sound of your name on his tongue
and if you’d gathered up his eyelashes and blew them to the wind
long, long ago, perhaps you would have realised that
the world isn’t black and white,
and you can’t blame anyone
and you can blame everyone

but it won’t make you feel any better.

Gustar: to like, to please.

A el sol le gusta madrugar,
y recibir las vidas—por los árboles,
por los azulejos, por tus ojos más brillantes.
Tú floreces en la mañana. Pero, yo prefiero
la noche oscura, por tú tocar mi piel y mis labios
con tu boca suave.

A mí me encanta la corriente de la fuente.
Me recuerda a tu pelo ondulado,
el amarillo del sol. Tú brillas más claramente.
Pero, no me gusta nada la luz.
Tu puedes ver mis cicatrices de la vida,
y puedo ver que no te gusta
mi historia.

Me gustan tus brazos cerca a mi.
Me gustan tus labios en los mios.
Yo escribo poemas más tristes y patéticas,
porque no es nada comparado a mi corazón,
muy vacío.


The sun likes to rise early,
and give life—to the trees,
to the bluebirds, to your bright eyes.
You bloom in the morning. But I prefer
the dark night, for you touch my skin and my lips
with your gentle mouth.

I love the flowing of the fountain.
I remember your flowing hair,
the yellow of the sun. You shine most clearly.
But I do not like the light at all. 
You can see my scars of life.
I can see you do not like
my history.

I like your arms around me.
I like your lips on mine.
I write poems most sad and pathetic,
for it is nothing compared to my heart,

Hello there, lovelies,

I have recently had two poems published in the fourteenth issue of Words Dance, a publication focused on the interplay between poetry and art. It would mean a lot to me if you would be so inclined as to purchase an issue to have a look at the hundred pages of wonderful poetry and breathtaking art. It’s filled with pieces that will make you smile. 

The digital edition is $5 and can be purchased here. The print edition is $16.

Thank you, and all my love.

Molecular Bibliology

You tell me that sometimes
your fingernails look like butchers’ knives, and your thighs, slabs of meat.
It makes me so sad that this girl sitting next to me
sees herself as nothing more than an animal carved to pieces
for greedy young men to eat.

Since when have women gone from living without a care,
never focusing on being fat or being thin,
to seeing ugliness lurk beneath their skin:
monsters that have claimed their lungs as their lair.

Demons like these have stained smiles since Moses
wrenched the seas apart, and locusts crawled through buildings
as easily as lust through men’s hearts.
And even when Jesus expelled spirits and raised the dead,
pretty young girls like Mary and Martha had poisonous thoughts
echoing through their pretty young heads.

But in this post-Biblical, post-postmodern age,
when everyone is into self-obsession and pointless outrage,
and we killed God with a little thing called apathy,
it’s hard to realise that wishing your skin would vaporise
is simply not okay.

Pretty girls with blue eyes & blonde hair
have always wished their body mass was insubstantial as air.
Biology classes told them they’re seventy eight percent water.
Maybe if they lie there and concentrate,
seventy eight percent of them will evaporate.

But if I had a daughter, I’d tell her that water moves
like starlight and illuminates the moonlight nestled deep inside of her.
I’d let her know that water wears away at mountains
and flows from fountains and that permanence is beautiful.

I’d tell her that we’re made of water and air, of creativity and hope,
and it’s the seemingly insurmountable thoughts
like self-loathing and depression that the water inside of us
will wear down like rubble.

But I have never given birth, and I look at you when you tell me
that nothing is as tempting as drowning yourself in the deep, blue sea.
You might think your skin is nothing but meat for the slaughter,
but I tell you now, like I’ll tell my daughter,
you’re so much more than just seventy eight percent water.

She said, I am sick.

— She said,
    I am sick.

— He said,
    With what?

— She said,
    I cannot breathe in the night.
    My lungs are filled with the ashes of memories,
    our first tentative touches illuminated by candlelight,
    the scent of lavender hanging as heavily in the air
    as smoke from a forest fire. I have never been
    a smoker, but somehow I have inhaled
    the cremated remains of ‘us’.

— She said,
    I cannot walk down the streets of my town
    without stumbling. In-between bones, wedged
    in the empty cavities: something rattles. Every step
    grates my body to rough and raw shreds. I cannot move
    for fear of tearing myself into long, broken strips.

— She said,
    I cannot sleep. My eyes refuse to close. At night,
    my mind wanders down twisting, turning paths. I move
    through dark spaces without thought.
    I have never been plagued by nightmares,
    never been plagued by staccato technicolour images
    of times when I would fall to pieces at a stranger’s glance.
    I only sleep in monochrome.
    Without light, I am blanketed
    in blackness.

— She said,
    I cannot smile at the sight of my lover
    in the gentle dawn light, caressing his skin
    with butterfly sunbeam kisses. A stroke can affect
    anyone, anywhere, anytime: I have simply forgotten
    how to curve my lips like hairpins,
    how to feel touched by something beautiful,
    how to feel blessed by your loving fingertips,
    how to feel moved by the wind and the sun and the stars,
    how to feel alive,
    how to feel,
    how to feel,
    how to feel,
    how to — —

— She said,
    I am sick.

— She said.

smoking hay / dying

The clouds, tonight, are tinged red:
embers of the night’s ashtray.

Two girls kiss outside a bar.
A man inside plays the cello
soulfully. No one listens.

Women disappear into the sky.
Men weep, count days carefully.

Someone quietly cuts their thigh
in two, sets the muscle alight

We are burning like the night.

We are a smoker’s cough
in God’s throat.

We are quiet and quiet and quiet.

I am like Springtime with you.

When you smile at me with those sand-crinkled lips,
Spring blooms inside my chest. In biology, they taught us
that the bronchiole were the roots of flowers plunging down
from the buds of our lips, deep deep within the soil of my lungs.
Kissing you is like the dawn of day, and the petals in my heart
open, open wide to caress the sunlight

Those kisses bloom into the fiery heat of summer,
and my skin is set aflame.
I am a canvas and you are the painter. Your fingers
brush the burning red of romance onto my pale skin,
and I become the artwork of sensuality, for all to see.
My flushed cheeks, you say, are worthy of being seen
in the Louvre. That only makes me burn the more,
and I melt away.

It’s in the moments between light that your caresses
turn chilly, your hands crackling like fallen leaves underfoot.
You glow so beautifully in the sunset, but when I hold you close,
you chill me to the bone. It is so silent in the fall.
How can I not dwell so deeply
on the coming frost?

And then, the sea in your eyes
rages, waves crashing down onto the shore of my skin.
A winter storm, you see. I cling to the rickety wooden boat
you threw me in, and hope. The cold can be so paralysing
but the sun is on her way. 

I only have to wait for you
to think of me as light

24/7 Love

Nick and I eloped in New York,
and the city restlessly slept, and the stars watched
quietly. We were not drunk. We were not high.
Our steps were quiet and measured, and death
seemed so very far away as we wandered through
the fluorescent wonderland of Manhattan. Nick and I
eloped in New York quite sober, quite content,

I stood before the mahogany desk
at two in the morning, in blue jeans
and ankle-high boots. This church was born
in a fast-food age, an era of immediacy.
Open twenty four hours, for God
never sleeps, just like the city.
My coffee-stained t-shirt, my dress,
and the rosy red of my cheeks
was the only bouquet I needed.

We married in simple, legal language,
confirming a simple, legal love. The dead poets
and the dead stars were disappointed in us.
I’ve never needed romance, I’ve never needed
moonlight. I am pale and freckled, with the blue eyes
of Alice’s dress, but I am not a storybook girl.

Nick and I eloped in New York:
without a ring, without flowers,
but with a swirled signature on a dotted line,
and with smiles in the heart
of our hearts.