Painted Dragon


She could’ve been beautiful

But the makeup on her face

Amplified every imperfection

Made her seem unreal

Like a slipshod animation


We talked for hours

About philosophies

Too convoluted to consume

About ambitions

And the despair

That shapes realities

She would have sacrificed

Everything for the stage,

Instead, on her knees

Choking down creation


I find myself standing

On the same corner

Night after night


To the instincts

Of inhuman men

Selling pieces of my soul

For the abstractions

Of a primed syringe


We bought

An apartment together

On the lower end

No furniture or food

Only conversation,

The sustenance of fools

I remember

The hours piled upon hours

Of words so casually strewn

I remember

The weight of her shrinking skin

Defenseless beneath

The weight

Of our transient bones

I remember

Watching her fall


Into addiction

My spirit too weak

To stall the descent


I opened the door

To find her on the toilet

In my sagging robe

Hair unwashed

Body slouching lifeless

Against a tiled wall

And neither my hands

Nor my breath

Could draw her back

From the widowing shawl

Of a commiserating death


I couldn’t stop screaming

I love you

Until my voice was gone

And I had to mouth

The words instead

I wish I’d told her

When I had the chance

When she was crying

For hours on end

When she was screaming

I’m better off dead

When she hated me

For getting in the way

And herself more

For what she’d become

Those words never

Hurt so much

As when unsaid

I wished I’d screamed them at her

Over and over again

Until she went deaf

So no other words could ever enter

And cause her pain again


Now I am standing

In her place

On a modest stage

A modest crowd genuflecting

As I start to play

And whisper the lyrics she left me

I imagine her in my place

Squeezing the microphone

Lips as round and full

As an orgasm


Here I stand claiming

What time could not

From my heart cleanse

In her place

Picking up the dreams

That she left


This together with Paper Heart is the remnants of a novel abandoned and lost long ago. Paper Heart was written from the female’s perspective and Painted Dragon from the male’s perspective. I’ve done extensive editing of this poem over the years but I’ve never been satisfied by my efforts.

18 responses to “Painted Dragon

  1. So sad this tale of prostitution and drug addiction…broken dreams and a broken person.

    In the third section this line doesn’t make sense…
    “I never even wanted to own”

    just one of those things you’ve said to look for.

    • A long time ago I was working on a book and this was a poem summarizing the book idea so I wouldn’t forget lol I gave up on writing the book a very very long time ago though and have lost whatever I had written except this poem and Paper Heart which was from the female’s perspective. I see that lol

  2. Powerful words, such expression of suffering in the hands of a cruel life. You are able to inject flavor and emotions as I read.

  3. The male voice is loud and clear, the cry of ‘what if’ and ‘I should have’ resonate throughout this piece. I like the power and simplicity of the language, I also understand your note at the end about not being happy as if the poem still has a way to go. Sometimes our writing is like that, as if it sits there looking at us saying you aren’t finished with me yet, there is still a way to go. Thanks for sharing this story Yves.

  4. Thank you so much Michael I think part the problem is that it began as a novel or novella not sure how long it would have been, which I’ve tried to encompas in a poem not an easy undertaking haha

  5. I was so into this Yves – you have the ability to capture life moments, writing what we see and hear – this is powerful and I loved it for the details which you gave to it – Thank you.

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