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.

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, 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 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

PS In May 2019, I will be moving to a new web address. I’m shifting to a personal domain and I’m so, so excited for you to see it! Buying my domain is giving me so much more freedom for new features, design, and I can’t wait for you to get started there.

But on the downside, all those of you who’ve subscribed to my blog here WILL NOT be notified of new posts anymore. I’d hate for you to miss out just because I’ve shifted addresses, but WordPress doesn’t offer anything to straighten this out.

So to make sure the change is as smooth as possible, I’d be so grateful if you’d enter your email ID below so we can stay in touch. You can opt-out any time, no hard feelings. I hate spam and I’ll only be reaching out every two weeks or so for blog updates, I promise.

Thank you, again, for all your support. ❤

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255 Comments Add yours

  1. So vivid that I stuck in first few lines.

    Liked by 2 people

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

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wendy waters says:

    Reblogged this on Catch The Moon, Mary and commented:
    WOW! No words to do this piece of prose/poetry justice. Just stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wendy waters says:

    Brilliant work! As I read it all I could think is this: And this is what it’s like to be a woman. You serve everyone but yourself and even your genius belongs in some man’s shadow. You have summed up my life in the most magnificent heartbreaking soul-awakening prose/poetry/words xxxx

    Liked by 2 people

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

      Like

  4. Thanks for liking my poem. I find you and I are somehow on save wavelength. I found myself reading your entire poem! I usually leave much sooner. (Big Smile)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I can definitely relate to that. The feeling is mutual. I’m so glad it resonated, Jacqueline! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ira says:

    I really like your work. You are inspiring.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Ira. That means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. hjlabre says:

    Is writing cathartic for you? Are you working through things that you couldn’t work through otherwise unless you wrote these pieces? I agree with Tom Burton further up. These are very immersive, almost suffocating in their intensity. I say that in a good way.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. More than cathartic, I’d say it’s a ‘reknowing’ of myself, letting hidden personal narratives come out, dust off shame, unease.
      Often, I’ll start writing a piece I don’t think particularly resonates with me, and this inner narrative somehow catches up. And all of a sudden, every sentence rings true to me, though I’d never realized I was harbouring those thoughts.
      Is that a catharsis? I don’t know. It’s less of a purge and more of an unfolding of the self, grotesqueness and all.
      Thoughts?

      Liked by 4 people

    2. hjlabre says:

      Oh, that’s something I definitely resonate with myself. For me, that’s how it is when I write music. I have something I’m feeling. I can’t put my finger on it. And then the music comes first, and then the words follow to sort of explain it. But I’m writing a lot more now, and it’s becoming the same sort of process for me. I like how you describe it: “reknowing”, “letting hidden personal narratives come out.” Maybe it’s a little different for me, but pretty similar. I say “catharsis” because, there’s almost a sort of relief after having written a post or a song. Like, I’ve exhaled something bad out of me, or let something go that was weighing me down. I have this sort of peace afterward. I almost can’t thinking through anything unless I write it out – or talk it out, but not a lot of people have patience for how much I talk! 🙂 haha

      Liked by 1 person

  7. …Even do a little bit scary and dark, this poem speaks about the reality of life. On this words of yours I can only add one of mine: “We, humans, are mortals, and as such we are just passers-by on this little planet we call the Earth. But what is immortal is our soul and our works that will remain behind us, even when our material bodies turn into dust and ash.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the way you’ve put it. There’s certainly something comfort to be taken in that…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. …The words always speak for themselves, no matter what they say…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sad commentary on being female — very well expressed. Stick around. As we age, we come into ourselves and everything improves. Muriel

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I certainly hope so, Muriel. Thank you for this ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Incredibly emotive with such beautiful words filled with a darkness that is somewhat familiar. You have really captured a great amount of emotion in your words and it is brilliantly written.

    Liked by 2 people

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

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Well, Natalie Swift (alias Shreya Vikram), i must now believe you when you say you don’t lie.

    Tonight I am new to your website and “Paper Doll” is your first work I’ve looked at. Already I can see how I must now look at many other works of yours before I will be able to look at “Paper Doll” — look and see.

    I wonder what it cost to be you?

    I wonder if you would tell me if I asked?

    I have a feeling your whole blog tells me in every post what it cost to be you. That’s the feeling I have right now.

    You’re brilliant, Shreya. I can already see that much. As with a sun, it only took a glance to see you were brilliant. It only took a glance, but it left a question. What will I see now when I look — not so much at you — but at the world now in the light of your new day?

    Tonight I am new to your website and I already think that if I am still here a year from now, you will still be new to me.

    Thank you so very much for sharing “Paper Dolls”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The cost of a life is the sum of our dreams, our hopes, our memories. If you asked, I would hardly know what to say, for such introspection can only go nowhere, leading to nothing except the awareness of the choking pressure of being. And who would seek that out? But in that line of thought, you’re right. The cost of being is scattered in our distracted ruminations, our infiltered reveries. And that’s what art offers us. Perhaps not the sum; but traces, the shadow of a being, the echo of a life.

      And as for staying ‘unknown’, I certainly hope so. There can be nothing worth gaining from a conversation when you’re fully aware of your correspondant. And there can be nothing worth reading from a writer when they have nothing to hide. Better to remain obscure and intruiging than clear and tedious. I hope I remian unknown for as long as I can.

      Thank you, Paul, for your presence here. It truly means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. canfield230 says:

    This is amazing!!!! A wonderfully lyrical visual of comparing human self protection and walls built up to keep safe our most private of hearts and innermost feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. canfield230 says:

    Very inspiring as well……..thank you. I’m going to share to fb

    Liked by 1 person

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

      Like

  13. melaniepatrice says:

    You write beautifully. My heart sings for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Melanie. ❤

      Like

  14. Beautiful writing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Carolyn.

      Like

  15. I like the little rhymes you work in. Just enough to make it interesting but not enough to make it cliche.Very nice.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Russell. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? How are you doing?

      Like

    1. Thanks for the reblog, Michael!<3

      Like

  16. Noah Jamilu says:

    Wao! Just like Chucky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thank you for reading, Noah.

      Like

    2. Noah Jamilu says:

      You’re welcome!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. jjacobik says:

    There was a time in my life in which I found comfort in repeating to myself, “I am nothing. I am nothing. I am nothing.” It rationalized all my treasured suffering. Then I realized that trying to convince myself that I was nothing was EXACTLY as false as if I were to try to convince myself that I was everything. Since I’m sure that I’m not everything, my not being nothing must also be true. I am something. You are too. Knowing that will not subtract an ounce of your amazing creativity. It will just make your life richer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this here, jjacobik. No matter how many times you tell yourself you are ‘something’, hearing it from someone else always warms your heart, just a little more. I’ll be mulling over this for a while now…

      Liked by 2 people

    2. jjacobik says:

      Perhaps like me, your writing is a part of you, not all of you. Readers imagine that they know me from my writing. They don’t. I’m really just a very ordinary guy who has chosen the greater exposure of blogging for all to see.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Exactly! I feel like I have a sort of an alter ego when I’m writing: I have no idea where all these thoughts are streaming from. It’s almost frightening sometimes. I’m truly not this depressing out of the screen. Or maybe I am, and I’m just good at hiding it. Maybe words just reveal more of you than you’re familiar with.
      I’m confused now.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. dellymari says:

    I enjoy your writing style!

    Liked by 2 people

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