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from Orlando


A species of Disney not yet named, don’t say it’s over, Orlando, for I’m beginning
to forget why I loved you in the first place, open my world like snuff porn, the weather
on my phone still set to your 84 degrees, I count each degree like a droplet of blood,

My period tense inside your mouth, begging you to beat me into your beaches,
begging you to stuff me into your white sand, fold me into your masochistic tidal
wave of power sources, fluffy, foaming, forgotten, nothing, I want to be the nothing

you make me, I want you to tell me I’m nothing, I like it so much, I like it when you
you do that, I don’t want to forget what it’s like to be the only nothing inside your body
I have looked out the peepholes of each of your nineteen skyscrapers, I have sent

Chris the selfies we took in the bathroom of Hotel Rosenberg and I only
hear from you in the distilled German language of that musician’s texts, the phonemes floating
like fake snow inside a diorama of time itself, shadowboxing the poignant eclipse,









I can see the audience, full of Xanax, full of that narcotic dream moon we discussed
for hours, I can see them all now in the velvet theater, waiting for it, wanting that energy
so much, but never making it theirs, but we did that, we took the fantasy of the body,

the porn of the body, and we transformed it into our own psychic architecture
as in the Dutch tourists who have filmed The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which is really called
the Yo Ho A Pirate’s Life for Me ride, everything Victorian and frilly, a repressed fantasy awakens

YouTube Guy Debord sex toy world, fake orgasms, shaved pussies, pouring and pouring
chlorinated water pouring from the corpse like molten spaces, the crystalline and mechanical turns
of what is no longer human, what can’t be human anymore, I begged you to beat me,

Orlando, as I told you my life story, a whole history of trauma unrolled like a scroll
from my blue, frothy mouth, and you replaced my mouth with a black, lace corset,
and I liked it so much that I threw away my flesh like a computer coming into focus









I’m not one of them, Orlando, and never will be, it’s so hard to make this feel real,
Like Jean Lafitte, defeated but evil, defeated but mean, defeated but so fucking right
clothed in a pile of Galveston horses and fish, chickens, goats, dogs, bones, shit

Cher was 43 years old in her “If I Could Turn Back Time” video, which means she was
five years older than I am now, I watch her in that kind of leotard, thong thing,
I want to know what she smells like, underneath the Disney of her soaking limbs,

I want to know what she dreams about when her wig is off, when she stares into
the formidable black night, formaldehyde bearing down on her chest like a terrible demon,
suffocating her into tiny bubbling orgasms, cryptic as storm light, suffering
for the greater good, Cher, the dirty sacrifice, the strange way she speaks in a slow hum,
underneath this body sack, I watched her terrible fantasy unravel
and it was as vacuous as fucking in the family bathroom of an airport, how numb the world









On August 11, 1977 (one day before I am born) a 4-year-old boy from Dolton, Illinois
drowns in the moat surrounding Cinderella Castle but some lose consciousness, some
die of natural causes, some are just old, some hit their heads and die later, some die

of their fantasies, some of their insatiable addictions, some commit suicide, some skim
the waters with their hands even though they are supposed to keep their arms and legs in the boat,
Orlando, I believe that their eyes dilate when they see their small shadows against

the Small World they weave their way through, they are a kind of collective eureka, they shriek
a giddy shriek into the phantasmagoria of this trashy arrangement, a spell on each reverberating culture,
lit by electronic candles, the moon happy as a solider, every piece dancing to the gnawing

poison of shamrocks, windmills, glowworms Chris said I would even work at Subway with you
and then I realized that while I was falling out of something I was falling into something else at
the same time and that disorientation was the colored diorama of life, and for a minute









I felt like hearing Chris’s voice, which I have never heard, and you are not Orlando anymore,
but something else, I know this in the way the song changes from English
to Japanese, German to Swedish and while Chris braids the urban sounds of negation,

all night talking to women, Oh you are Orlando, you are not Orlando, you are Orlando,
I can tell by the way you want to make me jealous, the mimetic hollowing out, I have lost you,
lost the feel of you, the way that wanting you would carry me through this, I have lost it

Today Ezekiel took a water gun, filled it with bathwater and sprayed me while I was sitting
at my desk composing, and the laptop stopped working and in anger, I slammed it shut,
thereby breaking the screen and when I opened the laptop there was nothing but some

geometric shapes, formed like 1977, the year of my birth, so I couldn’t retrieve any
files and I had to re-create this piece from scratch, as I had lost everything, and this takes
me even further away from understanding the love I felt for you, Orlando,









Then, I decided that feeling itself is actually always already a replication of feeling,
that feeling is a kind of Frankenstein written by a teenage girl, looking more like a diary,
but not the original diary, the diary re-read by the middle aged woman trying to understand

the diary she wrote as a teenager, so instead of desperately trying to get the piece I lost back,
I took a diary off my bookshelf because I felt very certain contained in the diary
would be, not only a way to piece the feelings I had for you back together, but also I was certain

you had read at least part of the diary behind my back when I dropped the kids off at their dad’s house,
and that in secretly reading the diary, at some moment you found something out about me
you could no longer stand, and that is precisely the moment you fell out of love with me,

abandoning me to the very diaries and bookshelves of my consciousness, both as a teenage
girl and now as a middle aged woman, so I tried to figure out what I could have done back then,
what confession, what moment of weakness, what apology had driven you out of my life,









so abruptly, what threat had I made, to a boy in 1993 or perhaps it was the admission that I didn’t eat,
that I was satanic, anorexic, a cult figure of my own mind, cross between the monstrous
and angelic, what was it I revealed that I wasn’t supposed to, what words were written in purple jelly

pen, what spasmodic teenage language crossed with erotic energy and bubbling lyrics
of pop songs folded you in, made you want to read more and more, and then close the diary
in disgust, I know you did it, Orlando, I know that in finding the answer you were looking for

you decided you didn’t want what you wanted, but then the effusive apology, the guilt
streaming down your mouth like grease, having eaten many chickens, having stuffed one’s
core with bold meats, black wines and lust, what crime did you over read, did I kill a rat,

a pony, a dog, an infant, a young boy, did I smack a girl in middle school, did I take
out revenge on someone in a malicious and misaligned way, did I show some promise
to the ugly stars, the ugly moon did I pledge allegiance to the devil to the upside down garden?









Because suddenly I recognize the other truth of a person isn’t in the diary itself
but rather situated in the space between the diary and the transgression, the person reading
the diary “illegally” since all diaries are constructed on this terrible loss of boundary

3/9/1997 if there’s a chance that I am sane I think it’s a lost lamentation, can’t believe
I failed my Chem test so I made myself throw up today, I did it but I’m scared
of my health, I’ve been reading Sylvia Plath, do you think I am meat or something?

The distances one will go clawing for material, the Kubla Khan of pleasure, groans
of continuity, this was written by a casual and contentious stream of thought,
delivered passively from someone I have never met and will never meet

3/11/1997 I just realized that if someone read my diary
I would feel raped, violated, deformed, Look at me, I can’t connect
to people, when they come near me I want to kill them













3/12/1997 Oh my god, poetic inspiration!!!
6/1/1997 Dear Nathan, I have listened to the distance mystically,
my heels beg me to stop, my instincts, refusal is a bullet in my uncle’s skull, refusal

are my hands, my hands, formed out of a cannon, 7/15/1997 Going to Jerusalem,
went out with this guy on his motorcycle, we went up to a mountain, then
we went up to another mountain, over the Sea of Galilee, when I found out how many girls

he fucked I decided that I would hate him and make a bad memory
out of everything that happened, I get freaked out about diseases and stuff like that,
but this weightlessness in black space or something is a sensation

I have never experienced, when you know you should be heavier like in water,
I want to tell him I could have loved him too, I know he loves women
and Pink Floyd and I love men and sex and words the narrative doubling back on itself










I like one night stands and I would do them as much as I could, this life is a slimly,
adorable double helix It goes on of course, on and on, there are parts that surprise me because
they are so angry, one passage, Orlando, starts I told that fat-assed whore with her Prozac bible

and smiling face that she was a disturbing disgrace, and there are sweet poems too, they
are very bad sometimes, one is called “Fantasy” I can’t bring myself to read it all the way through 
but I see it uses embarrassingly the word “tranquility,” and there are sayings, you might call them

bits of wisdom but for a teenage girl like “If you have to judge me then Fuck You for I never
felt the need to judge you” and it makes me feel self-conscious because I probably didn’t even
make that up, Orlando, it was probably something a friend told me that resonated

because I was angry and hurt, and then I thought about “Fantasy” the album that Chris’s
musical collaborator, Butterclock, made on her own to try to get over him, I listened to her electronic
beauty, thought about what you said— beauty makes people who aren’t that bright seem brighter,









And then I read all of the interviews with Butterclock online, no longer intrigued by her beauty,
but rather by her desperation, and when she said she wanted to make music
for desperate people who stay out in the club all night “to forget,” it endeared me to her

even though I knew she was the kind of woman who, if she saw me, would immediately
perceive me as a rival, I immersed myself in her desolate disco, her furious need
to stave off heartbreak before it could have a chance to lodge inside her chest and lungs

and I recognized myself in it, I recognized myself in the glassy way smoke rises
from a glass heart, that isn’t supposed to be an ashtray but is made to be so, simply
for the cheap symbolic resonance, and as the smoke lifts itself over Berlin, over Chris’s cellphone

where my narrative is stored, I also thought about how she wanted to make a cheerful album, replete
with cheerful sounds like crickets but how this was doomed to fail, not because it was really
dark deep down like she wanted but rather because, like your magic kingdom, Orlando,









she had placed herself above plurality in her opaque but rambunctious death drive,
had wanted to control the means of production and in so doing, an aesthetic
emerged confused, but not uncomplicated, and when I thought about her walking

through Berlin, either alone or with her lesbian girl gang or with Chris, I felt a sadness so deep,
a sadness for her confusion, and I dreamed that she would meet a terrible end,
but I didn’t want to tell Chris that, didn’t want him to know what he already must suspect

embedded between the synths, I listened to her track “Fantasy” over and over, and even
if her lyrics are mediocre, much like the poem “Fantasy,” from my diary when she sings
the words “confused inside” I understand she means a series of broken summers like this one,

violence in hotels, the way the procession of June, July, August and the first few weeks of September
are never inside the domain of the real, that they are in fact, fantasy’s double narrative, 
the mythic anguish of Butterclock, unable to break the magic circle, unable to reverse the fiction







This excerpt from "Orlando" was originally printed in VERSE (Volume 32, Numbers 1-3), a print journal focusing on longer works of poetry. For more info go to


Sandra Simonds

Sandra Simonds is the author of seven books of poetry including Atopia (Wesleyan University Press, 2019) and Orlando (Wave Books, 2018). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Granta, The New York Times elsewhere.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2016

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