Paper doll

Paper dolls and mannequins. Smiles sliding down molten plastic.

There is an art to being hollow. I do it better than most.


For ritual, there must be sequence. An order, a series of events.

So listen, and listen carefully. Like all art, the process is simple, but a single misstep can kill you.

Don’t rush, child: first, you must prepare yourself for the call. The songs of the sirens are sweet but deadly; they’ll cut through rope and twine and strike only at the heart.

The heart, you see, is a deceitful thing. Its blood will choke you as fast as it gushes with life. In the end, it’s your heart that will guide the knife to your own throat.

So remove the glass from the paintings that hang on the walls, plaster your windows with film. Shatter the vase of those flowers in your room; throw the shards where they cannot reach you.

Dull your blades and deaden your teeth.

Blunt your pencils, and cut your nails till they bleed.

Now, you are ready.

Close your eyes and listen. Do you hear it? No? Listen harder.

I am nothing. I am nothing. I am nothing.

Say it like a kiss, brushing against your skin, rubbery and vile. Say it with hope, and then say it with despair.

Listen until you can hear nothing else; listen until the words trip over another, like children, like waves, until they become no words at all, but pure sound.

Listen, and you’ll hear the softest of undertones to this; a cadence, a beat, a rhythm.

Lean into this sound, touch it with your trembling fingers, let it fall in pace with the beat of your heart.

You are weightless, you are free. You glide through your life smoothly, yet without grace.

You are paper, a lewd cardboard cutout, made by clumsy fingers and a blunt blade.

Don’t resist, let yourself be cut.

Are you scared? Nervous? Don’t worry; this is all normal.

Isn’t that what you worry about, the loneliness of an isolated experience?

Sweetheart, you have a long way to go.


Let go of your worries, let go of fear. You have no place to hold them. They will seep through you as easily as water through air.

The light might gleam in a single instant, but close your eyes and look away, for all it will do is blind you. Darkness, in its steady chill, is much more reliable.

You are nothing. You are nothing. You are nothing.

Repeat it till you believe. Don’t strain, it’s not that hard. There is an art to becoming hollow, but it’s simple.

Give until you can’t give anymore, and then give away the part of you that resists. Lay your heart bare, let them butcher it with their knives; and smile, for God’s sake, you look so morose.

The heart is a deceitful thing and it will hurt you as they slaughter it, but do not heed its cries.

Feed its pain until you can’t feel anything else, until you can’t feel the pain itself. Until it becomes like the sky; ever-present yet unnoticed.

Only then, will you have mastered it. The art of dead life.


In all the millions of words they weaved, they couldn’t find a string of letters to describe you. How does that make you feel?

Can you feel at all, through the heart that hears only the sound of its hatred?

Don’t cry; there is no word for you, so tell yourself that you are a novelty, you are unique.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?


Photo by takahiro taguchi on Unsplash

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135 Comments Add yours

  1. boballoo3 says:

    One of the best pieces of writing I have ever read on here.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot.

      Like

  2. Euphrates. says:

    Amazing write up. Haunting.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anand Bose says:

    Well crafted words. Anand Bose from Kerala

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was incredibly captivating, I love your style of writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unbelievable, this is amazing! Wonderful job—I love it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I very much enjoy, and identify with your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I’m glad it resonated. ❤

      Like

  7. joannehuston says:

    POWERFUL! The frightening and sad road to the Hollows!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for sharing such a real and poetically authentic expression of the journey into the community of loneliness and isolation where hating ourselves is a prerequisite – and where our percieved evidence that our worth is less than zero is amplified. I truly hope you have found the treasure map hidden in this place that leads you out into the richness loving ourselves gives. If not please msg me my heart breaks for you from experience and I have a torch that can shine a light on a way out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support. It means more to me than you could ever know. I tend to write from memory, not through present experience, but your thoughtfulness is appreciated all the same. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. jschulle says:

    Your style of writing is so captivating! And this piece is beautiful!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. clinock says:

    INTENSE in a good way…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So raw! Completely blown away by this piece! 😍

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It takes courage to be that raw with emotions. I consider it and then chicken out.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Wow. That was powerful and sad that I feel so connected to this. The linesYou are nothing. You are nothing. You are nothing.

    Repeat it till you believe. Don’t strain, it’s not that hard. There is an art to becoming hollow, but it’s simple.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They really spoke to me. I feel like i’ve been there many times and you’ve captured it in this dark, beautiful way.

      (Haha accidentally hit enter the first comment)

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ah no problem. I’m glad (glad?) it resonated. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Fulfilling eternity in nothingness.. beautifully crafted

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Fathy_writes says:

    Beautiful read. Intense and capturing

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve red this poem, Faceless, Bare, Vitese, Synosure, The heart of a crowd, the one after you…I think writing is a calling in world.

    Your mind is an infinite library that I would like to peruse for a while…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying my work. Thank you so much for taking the time to read ❤

      Like

    2. Continue with the same spirit, let that fire inside your mind burn more, you have a loyal follower in me…
      I’ll read as you write literally…

      Liked by 1 person

  16. gpavants says:

    Hi Shreya,

    Creation is a painful and a joyful process. We loose before we gain.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the way you put it. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Gary ❤

      Like

  17. Swatt Art says:

    Enjoyed that, thanks

    Liked by 3 people

  18. iamvhardik says:

    It is quite haunting. I could picture the process and feel the personification of the doll. Quite vivid imagery!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. That truly means a lot. ❤

      Like

  19. mojiwa says:

    Daaayum! That’s some pretty epic linguistic magic right there. When are you writing a book?
    Thanks for finding my little page and hitting like, that was much appreciated. Little did I know I’d be stumbling into a wonderous cave of literary delights as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Mojiwa. I’m glad you enjoyed it. As for when I’m writing a book, no plans yet. Honestly, I doubt I’d have the commitment to follow through.

      Like

  20. Nick J Wood says:

    So good. I am massively impressed!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Ra'ahe says:

    Slam. Bam. Whoa man, that was fucking explosive!❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ll take that as a compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I envy you,, I vie you, am glad not to know you for it is surely the heart that drives the knife and I don’t want the heart to be mine.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Gaurav says:

    Seems like an illusion, but this is the reality.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Disturbingly beautiful. Definitely makes me wonder. Loved it!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Hannah.

      Like

  25. icarepo says:

    You are, infact I don’t have any proper word to explain it but it’s a nice piece and I love it

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha I’m taking that as a compliment. ❤️

      Like

    2. Apurv Raj says:

      No. You gave me goosebumps

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Beautifully penned and deeply affecting.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Whoa. Intense and powerful. You really have a talent for words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much. That means a lot. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ll definitely have to look at some of your other work after this. Great job!

      Liked by 2 people

  28. This is terrifying…..your beautiful and eloquent language magnifies the effect. But it reminds me to eliminate my negative self-talk so thank you 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’d like to think of it as a reminder to myself as well. And maybe hope that giving self-hatred a voice will take away some of its power…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hopefully, it will!

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Joseph says:

    Lovely so dark 😆😅

    Liked by 3 people

  30. aprilgarner says:

    This is beautiful and painful. It reminds me of this quote by Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s so beautiful. I suppose that’s the more positive interpretation of being ‘no one’. Funny how it changes so much depending on how you choose to see it.

      Liked by 2 people

  31. When you have managed to hold the attention of someone like me who would never pick up poetry willingly, you are obviously someone with bucket loads of talent. This was utterly beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, coincidentally, I was actually one of those people. I never meant to write poetry, not even now. But people started calling it poetry, and I didn’t want to spend all my time correcting them, so here I am…

      Liked by 3 people

  32. areilly88 says:

    As I read “you are nothing,” repeated and later again, I thought: “NO, you are everything!” That is how well the piece brought me in. You describe well the lies depression tells 💚 Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for this, Amanda. It truly means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  33. antoniazen says:

    It feels as if you have captured something slippery and elusive that plagues so many of us, and held it in your hands for us to examine. It will be different for everyone who looks. Ah yes, a deep part of me answers, that is what it is be chiseled away and to carve yourself to fit into neat torturous, one-dimensional boxes of social norms, or to please others, including those who walked that road before us (and who walk it still.) This is my reflection, but I agree with your earlier comment, a poem either resonates with someone or it doesn’t. This resonates with me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. ” It will be different for everyone who looks.”
      And that’s precisely what I love about writing on the whole. It’s almost jarring, how every reader comes up with a completely different picture, something I would have never thouhgt of, and yet, when I read my own piece again, I can’t believe I missed it. When I first started writing, I thought it was upto me to put forth an idea, and that was that. But it’s so much more than that; it’s about stepping back as far as you can and giving just one part of the puzzle, and then watching everyone else complete it to create something beautiful.
      So thank you for your contibution. It means so much more than I could ever express.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. antoniazen says:

      maybe art / poetry is in part a conversation with whoever hears or listens?

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Matthew B says:

    Your words are gripping. They capture the essence of how I used to feel before I escaped the normal life and moved to Costa Rica.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad it resonated, Matthey. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Matthew B says:

      Thank you for bringing this haunting beauty into the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Wow. Thanks for this vivid imagery in your writing. It moved me a lot. -Kevin-

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m glad it resonated, Kevin. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

  36. Jatayu says:

    I don’t get it. You should post the meaning too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’d be like explaining a joke to an audience that didn’t laugh. Either it resonates or it doesn’t. I leave drawing conclusions upto my readers.
      Though I do recommend reading Ethan’s comment here: https://themidnightember.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/dead-life/#comment-3975
      for a different perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Jatayu says:

      You should publish your works if you aren’t already.

      Liked by 3 people

  37. I have no words. Your poetry is exquisite, haunting and raw. You make every word count and it shows in the imagery you weave. Beautiful piece! 😊💜 ~Kelsey

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks you so much, Kelsey. That means a lot ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  38. Your words took me on a very realistic, dark journey. I appreciate my life even more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad it resonated. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Girl, your words are a bliss.

    Liked by 4 people

  40. lostperci says:

    Very strong and echoing in the mind, I love the form of quotes breaking the stanzas apart. You should think about audio, I would love to hear how you read this aloud.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you. Funny; I was actually thinking about that. I don’t know how it’ll work out but I’ll definitely keep the suggestion in mind.

      Liked by 3 people

  41. surely its going inside but paper cardboard and the quality is not resonating with the idea

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Silent Hour says:

    A very special piece of writing. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad it resonated. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  43. Ethan NOPE says:

    Two things this poem reminded me of:

    1. A quote: “He: What’s the matter with you?

    Me: Nothing.

    Nothing was slowly clotting my arteries. Caught by nothing, saying nothing. When I am nothing they will say surprised in the way that they are forever surprised, “but there was nothing the matter with her.”
    — Jeanette Winterson

    “There is a clawed finger tearing at my flesh;
    I watch,
    Of my body dispossessed.”
    —A note from my phone

    One dream I had about this poem (during a nap, today):
    I saw man in prison—the man was Malcolm X (Denzel Washington), as I had just been watching the Spike Lee flick thereon the night before—and as in the movie, the man is in solitary confinement, his sanity being broken. I was then, after this depiction, in that liminal state between waking and sleeping, wherein thoughts are more image than word—or every word is an image—and I was brought instantly to your poem. The guard, in the movie the dream evoked, opens the slot on Malcolms solitary door, asks him again and again to state his number, an act which Malcolm finds degrading and will not do.
    “How did the guard know when to come into that cell—as he does in the movie when Malcolm is finally broken—know just the right degree of insanity in which a man can be still possessed—how much further would fictional Malcolm have had to go to become truly ‘dead life’, be lost to his pride (as was the goal of his captors) but also to any possession whatsoever, by himself or stranger?” All this ran through my dreamy stupor, indistinguishable from the dream itself but for the act of thinking—though, perhaps not in that exact, much more polished, phrasing.

    How does this dream relate (other than my visceral feeling that it did):
    “The isolated experience”, when we cannot communicate that experience, are we not in a kind of solitary confinement? And are we not given the chance again and again to betray those isolated experiences, those most ineffable essentialities of ourselves? To become possessed by something which is missing that which is our necessary to our fulfillment? We cannot bear the pain of being possessed by ourselves in isolation, neither can we—at first—bear to be possessed by that which is the alienation of ourselves. Again and again the guard, who truly does not exist but as a symbol for a collective function, comes into our solitude, asks us to state our number—identify with that which we are not— asks us to declare the nothingness of our unique, until we at last cannot deny him any longer, cannot bear to be ourselves in isolation, knowing the decay of the self that is isolation; thus, we become dead to ourselves to save ourselves, become hollow to fit into a fullness. (A fullness made up of innumerable hollows: I am nothing. I am nothing. We are something.”) Our heart is that which is emotionally interconnected with others, and it is our heart which leads us to slay ourselves for them.

    Your poem is much more thematically complex than my associations give it credit for—or imply of it—and I see an experience of alienation quite different from the one in it evokes in me evident between its lines; but, from my own little solitary cell, this is what I see—a ray of sunlight, a breath of wind from a crack in the concrete, letting me know that my pain “is not exclusive”, though it is, as yours, unique. Thank you, truly.

    Blessings!

    PS. If my overanalysis tarnishes the purity of your poetry—its positively effulgent bloom of significantions and nuance—PLEASE delete it, as I would not, even in the slightest, wish to take away from a work such as this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Ethan,

      First off, thank you so much for taking the time to read and leave such an elaborate comment. It means so much to me, more than I could ever express.

      Your perspective is so whole, I don’t think I can add anything to it, other than I’m in awe, truly. I agree with everything you’ve said, but more than that, I can’t help but admire how you’ve drawn parallels between so many events and characters, each of their own depth and significance. The linkage with the human need for connection is something I hadn’t considered when I was writing the piece, but when I read over it now, I can see the idea shine through clear as ever.

      I love the idea of a “A fullness made up of innumerable hollows” and how you’ve said: “Our heart is that which is emotionally interconnected with others, and it is our heart which leads us to slay ourselves for them.”

      Perhaps this is how the written word truly adds value to the world; by allowing us to connect those superficial instances of our life that make us a whole; not just as an individual, but as a community.
      In its way, our fiction – lies it may be- serves a purpose greater than it’s given credit for.

      Grateful for your presence here.

      -Shreya Vikram

      Liked by 1 person

  44. The Warden says:

    This is a great follow-up to “Vitesse.” It’s still largely visceral, both in its style and its imagery, but it feels a bit more lush.
    “So remove the glass from the paintings that hang on the walls, plaster your windows with film. Shatter the vase of those flowers in your room; throw the shards where they cannot reach you. Blunt your pencils, and cut your nails till they bleed.” This section speaks to the environment where the object of the poem – the “you” – is.
    Also, I should note that your use of second-person narration is quite compelling. It would be pretty tedious for, say, a novel, but it fits perfectly in a poem like this.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’ll think of it as a transitional piece then, though I’m not sure I’m done with this style.
      Mmm in shorter pieces, I feel like it’s so much more intimate to be direct, though you’re right: it would probably break apart if stretched for too long.
      Thank you for your input ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  45. vis4voice says:

    Oh, how I could feel each of your words, so carefully chosen and strung together with a searing pain so familiar. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad it resonated. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  46. Why cardboard cutout is lewd? I didn’t get it

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Beautifully written.
    For someone who is coming out of that darkness you sure did ignite something inside.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad it resonated. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  48. ssfrerking says:

    Frightening in its beauty.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. That means a lot.

      Like

  49. The Graphite Syringe says:

    Immensely inspiring

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. I’m glad it resonated.

      Like

  50. Beautifully written💚

    Liked by 3 people

  51. hmaxwell217 says:

    May I never feel like this,and only try to give joy of only with a true smile

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ll hope the same for you ❤️

      Like

    1. Thank you. I’m glad it resonated.

      Liked by 1 person

  52. jamie says:

    So deep

    Liked by 2 people

  53. KT says:

    I wish I were nothing. Nothing is so much simpler than something. Lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. So descriptive and haunting.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Tom Burton says:

    Very immersive read! You sweep the reader along for such a raw emotional ride. Really enjoyed this!

    Liked by 1 person

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