By Israfel Sivad

I love my pain.
It keeps me strong.
It keeps me whole.
You can’t have it!

I will never give
what makes me ache,
my heartbreak, to you.
I am the sum of my pain.

Do you understand?
I don’t think you do.
I tried telling you,
but you won’t listen.

I think I’ll have to kill you.

I hung your painting on my wall.
It’s sickly, with five forest rectangles
spaced throughout. Two make eyes.
One is a nose. The others – a mouth.
It’s a crooked face. The paint fades out.

It looks an awful lot like me.

I’m going to take your painting
off my wall. Spit on it. Kick it.
When it won’t break, I’ll use this knife.
Watch the canvas flutter out the window,
a wounded bird crashing down

to the street where it hits the ground.

Do you see your soul ripped apart,
glistening spit in the gutter?
A man picked it up, dusted it off.
There was nothing to save. He threw it away.
Are you happy now? I gave you my pain.

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection The Tree Outside My Window available here.
Music composed, arranged, and produced by Nanook Sputnik
Thumbnail: Digital drawing by Rogelio Ronco.



By Israfel Sivad

You’re a poster, child…
Explosions, bodies, the stench.
Somebody wants to kill you,
and that’s not very funny.
It’s not funny at all.

You’re a civilian, honey,
wrapped in red, white, and blue.
Red stands for nothing.
White melted blue. I’m nothing, too.
Melt me blue, through and through.

Do you feel madness, baby,
creeping into your mind?
Madness from frustration, anger,
the pain of something you did not do,
but that you did just the same.

We’re losing, my friend,
losing like you lost your mind.
Locked up in this place,
this apocalyptic state,
where all I can do is scream:
I’m through! I’m through!

Originally published on
For more of Israfel Sivad’s writings, please click here.


By Israfel Sivad

My face is
so pale it’s white, like
a whale, as bright as

the underbelly
I saw last night.

Ahab ain’t got nothin’
on this motherfucker.

I’ll tear through
every wave, deeper
than that peg-leg bastard
was ever willing to go.

I’ll take everything on:
Death, hate, fear, the loves of
lives repressed by straight white lines,
lives depressed by little white lies.

I’ll smack that shit upside
the head, send it running,
screaming, like the screams
from a dream of paper

and fright, of real lines of
white, of demons and night.
Take it again. I’ll bear it again.
The bright white light of life

breathing right here, so strong, like
sex and drugs and mythology,
is the source of what I rolled for you
since I was a child so wild,

baby child, little child,
running wild like a firefly
through the glare of hell’s headlights
lighting our lives through the songs

we wanted to sing. Those songs are
gone. We’ll remake them tomorrow.

You were all waiting for me,
waiting for me at the crossroads,

wanting, needing to tell me
we’re all going to die.
I told one of you a story about
your hometown. She smiled,

shook my hand, wandered
into the black night, vanished in
the haze of our minds. There were
two more things I wanted to say,

but there were three more of you
that day. I couldn’t tell you all
rats sang when I came home,
scuttled in the bed frame

when I laid down alone,
when I rolled my pen,
burnt it on the altar of love.
Ranting, raving, lying

on my bed, my funeral pyre,
flames of white fire, Lord, is what
I eat. Rats run across my feet.
I wandered down the street,

left you all, left the whorehouse
behind my left, but the rats still
ran across my feet. The rats
still made up my myth for me.

Beady red eyes, bodies
like milk, so white. Like
milk this drug gets old.

Aging, we die. We talk about the color
white. We say something that says

nothing, nothing at all, but
that’s everything, right?

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection The Tree Outside My Window available here.
Music remix of “See God’s Ark” by DJ Super Squirrel.
Thumbnail: “Beauty by the Night” by Rogelio Ronco.

I’m So In Love With You

Cora and I are sitting here at the IHOP in Columbia Heights on Irving Street NW, Washington, DC. It’s Saturday, 3:00 AM, two and a half weeks after I lost my job. We’ve had a great night – dinner at this chic ramen place down on H Street NE that’s owned by one of the members of Animal Collective. Cora’s been trying to get me to this place for over three months now, but it’s always full. They don’t take reservations, and the last time we tried to get in, it was a three hour wait. We wouldn’t have eaten that night until after ten o’clock. Instead, we went to another one of the burgeoning restaurants on the H Street scene. It was good, but we really wanted to check out this ramen place. The first time I ever had quality ramen was when I was still living in Brooklyn. It blew my mind. Tonight, we went down to H Street as soon as I got out of work, which was even a little bit early. Dinner was fantastic, everything we expected it to be. Afterwards, we watched an episode of Project Runway back at her place. Then, we eventually wound up here at IHOP…

“So I finally started working on my memoir project again,” I tell her between bites off my Spicy Ranch Chicken Sandwich®.

“That’s great,” she says, “What about all the problems you were having with it?”

“Well, it’s kind of funny. You know, I woke up super early the other day, and suddenly it struck me – I can end the chapter I’m working on with me losing my job. Just because the forward going story changes doesn’t mean I can’t keep telling it.”

“So where are you now?”

“Well, I’m only about six years back, when I got back to New York the first time for grad school.” I pause, “But I was thinking about starting the next chapter with that discussion you and I had on Monday. I feel like it’s appropriate because it shines a lot of light on our characters and our relationship. It should deepen the reader’s understanding of us…”

Cora stops eating. She gazes across the restaurant at the nothing that exists there. I’d said too much. We’d been having a great night together, and I’d just reminded her of our present moment’s greatest fear. But it’s not right for me to write about our relationship without her permission. I need her approval to continue this project.

Without picking up her fork, she says, “You know, Gabriel, I used to really look forward to reading the parts with me in them, but I don’t think I want to read any more of that book.”

I understand exactly where she’s coming from. I don’t want to write any more of this book. I’m scared about what’s going to happen next. I’ve already revealed more about my past than I ever intended, and as far as the future goes… right now, it’s too unknown.

This past Monday, I admitted to Cora I’d applied to some jobs outside DC, in Boston and New York to be precise. We’d already discussed that possibility. My rent on this basement studio apartment with no oven or stove is $1,000 a month, and that’s a good deal for where I live, an amazing deal for a block from the Metro. My loans, which are in deferment right now, will total $1,000 a month once I start working again. So I can’t really work for less than $60,000 a year if I even want to stay here. I don’t own a car. My COBRA insurance policy is running me $500 a month. I need to look into what I can get on the DC healthcare exchanges. I should be able to shave a bit off my expenses with that. But I only have two months of severance, and my unemployment pays out a measly $378 per week. That’s the maximum Virginia can give, and if you do the math, it barely covers my rent and health insurance. Groceries, travel and entertainment expenses would have to go by the wayside. I have no savings. It evaporated when I started contributing to my retirement account while I was still working. My $1,000 credit limit is maxed out. My investments total $10,000, and $5,000 of that is in a 401(k) right now. I’m waiting to transfer it to an IRA, but it still can’t be touched until I retire. I’m 37 years old. So that money needs to keep building for another 30 years. I don’t have any kids. At the moment, it looks like I could be on my own as an old man. I’m no longer counting on ever making a living as a novelist. If I don’t find work in the next month or so, I’ll have to move back in with my mom in Richmond just to cut expenses and save what little bit of cash I do have left.

Cora said she understood all that, and she supported the decisions I had to make as a result. She said I’d taught her how to be so flexible by supporting whatever would happen with us once law school finally started for her, which it did the other week. But when the real possibility of me leaving DC arose, she panicked. I don’t blame her. We’ve got a good thing going here.

She offered to let me move in with her if I have to. “But I think that might be really hard on your ego,” she’d added, which it would be. Cora lives in a studio as well. Neither one of us would have any privacy. But pride and privacy aren’t my biggest fears. I had a girlfriend move in with me once upon a time under similar circumstances at about the same point in our relationship. We couldn’t make it work. Financial hardship is the absolute worst reason for two lovers to become roommates. It’s not a choice. It’s a trap. Once you live together, there’s no turning back. Moving out causes one person to wonder what the hell went so wrong. Then, the resentments start to build.

Cora and I finish our IHOP meals in relative quiet, casting furtive smiles at one another. She only eats half her omelet. On the walk back to my place, beneath the dark trees dotting Irving Street, I put my arm around her shoulder. It’s just now starting to get cold. She’s wearing her leather jacket again. Fall is finally in the air. Cora leans in closer to me. We turn to each other and embrace. “I’m so scared,” she whispers. “I’m so in love with you.”

Click here to start this story from the beginning.

The Hermaphrodite

The Hermaphrodite
By Israfel Sivad

Teach me to love.
I will teach you to hate.
Together, we can make a change.
With your love and my hate,
we can make this world a better place.

I’ve always wanted to write a children’s story.
Do you think you could teach me to speak?
Maybe then, you will love me
for what I’ve given you. Hate me
for what I’ve done to you.

Okay, I’m ready to do it now.
I picked my pen up off the desk.
My notepad is open to this page.
Take a deep breath, I’m going to begin.
The story is about a lion who loves a wolf…

I will always be
the alpha motherfucker
moaning like a bitch in heat
fucking like a goddamn lion king.

So you little slut,
let’s get to work on this lesson.
I’m bored with bondage and discipline.
I say we’re ready for sadomasochism.

You know what, I despise
your fucking sleepy time stories.
Now that I have you tied up and gagged,
you’re gonna listen to poetry my way:

This one is all about me,
but you know I am you.
I’ll tell it in third person.
Let there be no dispute!

I went back to the pit today.
I retraced my steps.
I sat down with the devil.
We had brunch.
I called him father.
He called me son.
I said – Father,
I’m going to kill you now.
I love my mother.
I hate what you have done.
The devil agreed.
He bowed his head.
He told me he was in love with me.
I rolled out the guillotine…

I had to spare the roaches, though, tiny little rats
that they are, crawling in and out of my father’s soul.
God and the devil, the master enslaved.
The lion is the wolf!

The spirit has come to life, my friend,
and this time he’ll condemn you to
heaven by praising the glory of hell.
That’s how the wild things grow.

Everybody’s gone mad.
We’re too sane to see it.
Take out the punctuation.
Let every line stand alone.

I have to write this all down
because if I accosted you on the street,
you’d lock me up and throw away the key.
My asylum is this madhouse called sanity.

Okay, I can untie you now.
I’ll let you lick your wounds.
Tell me that wasn’t better than sex.
You should speak it to everybody.

I almost read it to a little girl
who was playing with pigeons.
When she said she hated those birds,
I sat down.

I asked her if she wanted to hear a poem.
She said, “Sure.” I opened my notepad to here.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I lie so well, I confused myself.
No poetry today.” I stood up and walked away.

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection The Tree Outside My Window available here.
Music composed, produced, and arranged by gn0m0n and Reify.
Thumbnail: “Figures” by s1lverf1sh.

The Story We All Hear


The Story We All Hear
By Israfel Sivad

As the man said,
I didn’t get it then.

I was driving in my car.
A song came on the radio.
That was when I knew,
I wanted to tell his story.

It’s the same story we all hear.

It said:

Your whole life waited,
moment to moment,
seeing things you don’t see,
hearing things you don’t hear,
thinking things you don’t think,
dreaming things you can’t dream.

There are no nouns.
The world is verbs.

If only we could speak that way,
then feelings and thoughts
would float through our minds,
guided like a drunken pool cue.

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection The Tree Outside My Window available here.
Music written, performed and produced by Weylin’ Rose.
Thumbnail: “Self Portrait 1” by Ruby Fields.


Cadillac Jack Speaks

Cadillac Jack Speaks
By Israfel Sivad

Here we go
one more time
on the roller coaster ride.

Don’t fasten your seatbelt.
Don’t back down.
Step right on inside.

The power dims.
The lights go down.
We’re in for a treat.

Someone special
sitting down
on the passenger seat.

He says,
“This trick is really sweet,
should give us all a laugh.
I fixed myself.
I fixed my watch.
Can I fix this broken glass?”

The man jumps back to Cadillac Jack.

He says,
“Boy, let me smack you up.
Ain’t on no bad boy trip,
but on straight-up Lou Reed junk.
I won’t back down
as Johnny Cash said,
and he was a boy named Sue.
Like riff raff,
I’m spic n span.
I belly up, knuckle down,
stand my ground.
I’m in a ring of fire,
got the cocaine blues,
back at Folsom Prison again.
So trip yourself,
and beat yourself,
and find your own group health, man,
because the insurance has all run out,
and I ain’t got no more money.”

Poem written and spoken by Israfel Sivad from his collection “The Tree Outside My Window” available here.
Music by Jon Beardsley
Thumbnail: “Shenanigans” by Nate Seamster