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Juliano Zaffino - The Author Is Dead - Blog

The Son You Wanted

Juliano Zaffino

 'To be your one and only / Your white and silent holy / Home-and-native son'

'To be your one and only / Your white and silent holy / Home-and-native son'

If I had been the son you wanted
I would write this in a way you could enjoy,
Excavate my heart for the artwork saying
“I long to be the country’s sun you vaunted”,
And to laugh with you facelessly
As the crowd shifts violently
When the support act says
And to laugh at imitative accents
And the jokes that aren’t jokes
That draw an arrow ever backwards
With ethnic man and ethnic life in aim,
Hatred just as great as I could hold
For anyone unfortunately born
With a skin-tone greater than zero.

Do not underestimate the love
I hold for you and for our single land
I would cheer us on in all the races
Out of fear for other races if I could,
Would sign my life on the line
To be your one and only,
Your white and silent holy
Home-and-native son, a smoking gun,
But there is something or
Other of the foreigner
That is as on me as in me
And it speaks out
– in accents unrecognisable –
To tell me there is a language
With words enough to express
The things that I am feeling,
A language that you nor I nor island
Could ever hope to speak.

I long to be the one
Oh mother oh father
Oh country oh sun
I long to be your one and only
Bullshit toting hellfire floating
Never noting local gloating
Brietbart quoting self serve voting
Duty doting son.

"You Feel Things Too Deeply"

Juliano Zaffino

 'supreme joy darkly inherited / dowry given in effervescent cynicism'

'supreme joy darkly inherited / dowry given in effervescent cynicism'

“You feel things too deeply”
You say.

“I am the weight of all things”
I laugh.

White-knuckled vomiting
TV-watching mental breakdowns.

Swallowing spittle ripped receipts
Saltwater eye leak seasoned to taste.

Blue sky battleground symphonies
Waltzing self evermore deathwards,

Sheared hair in fists, free, filched
Foreboding, follicles in mourning.

Yellow-faced mother grey hair,
Cardigan coming, going, exile.

Self-sabotage succeeded by suicide
On tiny screens, dead of night.

Rainfall suppressing fire,
Interminable grey, terminal,

Greek chorus desecrating hearts:
Pages flammable, pages porous,

Supreme joy darkly inherited
Dowry given effervescent cynicism.

Sudden sunshine trumpets exaltation
Maybe God, maybe-god.

“You feel things too deeply”
You cry.

I live beneath atomic weight
I say nothing.


Juliano Zaffino

 'drowning man writes sad poems / to make contact with unseen life forms'

'drowning man writes sad poems / to make contact with unseen life forms'

The drowning man is making peace
With the life he leaves behind
And the unknown that stretches out
Wave-like before him, lapping.
Out in space weightlessly waiting
For re-entry, for the impact,
In the silky blackness between stars
Moving between the planetary bodies
In search of some land inhabitable,
A body of water to sustain him.

The drowning man writes sad poems
To make contact with unseen life forms.

The drowning man is a hopeful one –
He has a lot to say, his words
Rising up out of him like bubbles
Breaking deaf on the surface.
He has a lot to say and you
Are going to listen, this dying wish.

The drowning man’s missive
Is a message in a bottle in the ocean.
Impossible to know, but it says:
“I have lived a life you wouldn’t notice
If it was played out a thousand times
In front of you, before your vacant
Stare, in a soap-opera, on the train
You take every morning to work,
In your own kitchen, because I am
An alien assuming a form just like yours,
Blending into the furniture, wallflower
Still drowning in my private life.
I am a hurricane ripping through
But I will die as soon as I stop going
And so I do not stop going, ever.
I tell you: do not stop going. Never.”

The drowning man writes sad poems
And buries hope in all that dead.

The drowning man lives until he doesn’t.

The drowning man wants to be a beacon,
Lighthouse-like for wayward sailors
Lost in coastal dark in perpetuity.
The beam rises from his throat like a scream
And breaches the body, the water,
Electric storm in some smaller pocket.

The drowning man sees a light
Seeping through the cracks
In the riverbed’s depths,
And turning sees flowers
Blooming in the distant sky.

Bipolar, A Triptych

Juliano Zaffino

 'How / this is my life. Say how is / This "I" me?'

'How / this is my life. Say how is / This "I" me?'

This is a long-poem that was written over the course of a turbulent few months. It is called 'Bipolar, A Triptych' after its nature, and does not to my knowledge represent a fixed moment, memory, or mind. Anyone affected by Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as Manic Depression, can reach out at Bipolar UK.

A Triptych

1. No I’m Fine Thanks Just Really Tired Today I Didn’t Sleep Well Is All

until I go back to the beginning –

I am out of my mind again, dear friends.
This is me telling you that I’ve gone mad
In old-school biblical ways, in the long-known style
Of all your favourite artists, your Van Goghs,
Your Hemingways; “oh my god you are SUCH
A Virginia Woolf”, they say, handing me
Stones fit for my pocket, fit for the river,
Calling their moody cousins bipolar – a slur –
When they mean unpredictable. And justly
They never see me coming, a dark horse.


I wear depression like a brooch
To pin my outfit together, a centrepiece.
Sometimes I forget I’m even wearing it.
I know exactly what it looks like,
What it weighs in my hand, and still I reel
When I look down bleary-eyed through
Tears and see its jagged form in my fist.

I don’t know when or where it started,
This certain fog, and I can’t describe it
Sanely, without a toothy smile poking through
Because I can only laugh at myself,
Changing all the pronouns back to the first person,
Laughing at the image of a dog chasing its tail to death;
Because this thing of mine is just illogical,
Like when you smell a smoky death-plume
But can’t find the fire. It’s the smoke
That kills you, it’s the slow asphyxiate.
It leaves no loving handprint
On your cold and tainted skin.

I talk slower, every word its own cliffhanger,
Every breath an everloathing labour of revulsion.
Maybe you’ll see me crying at my desk at work
Or falling asleep in front of the TV at 8pm.
These are not my normal behaviours.
I read the same page of the same book some
Dozen times and it means nothing. I watch
Cartoons that I can quote by heart because
What matters most is the colour and the clamour.
I cancel all my plans and burn all my bridges.
I cut the surface of my skin to see what’s within.
These are not my normal behaviours.

I am a soldier come home from war
In my living room, surrounded by an inner house
That I have built out of useless things
Some person used to love. These books
And belongings are but bricks to build my tomb.

– I am trying, by the way –

All these things are void of value. The words
I want to say are lost somewhere between
Sense and transmission. Everything goes.

The slowness is a sign that the brain
Is shutting down and the body
Is slowly getting the signal and, slow,
Is trying to let you go, peacefully
And on your own terms – still
I am trying to get the message.
The relay system connecting sight
With sense is slower, too.


Every stretched out thought occupies endless space.


I am not what I was
And I struggle to listen, to hang on
To his every word the way I used to.
And that’s when he says to me
“I feel like a ship has docked
On my side” – and I think yeah
That’s it really, the pressure,
The imposition, the drain,
That’s all it is, some new-docked vessel
Bleeding me dry. Just sleep it off.
Refuel this depleted reserve.
Wait for departure, open waters.


2. The Floor Is The Lowest Point Of Your Ground-Floor Apartment

The low is almost always the fall
But I choose to constitute my own preferred personal history
In the place of facts and psychiatric pathology.
Think of the narrative as a triumph –
From this low one day I’ll fly
And in such little lies burrow deep, and survive.


Yes I have an apocalyptic obsession
And thank you for pointing this out to me
In terms I can understand but I need you to know
That the world is ending, right before our eyes.
There is nothing internal about the loss of logic.
When I scream for you from the other room
And tell strangers online that I am doomed
There is no need to be contrary. Doom is not
A mood it is a science. Life has been over
Forever but I am only now waking up to it.
We would all be happier if we woke up to it.
Let us all get lost in my black lake together.


When I think of your face at night
It gives me car-crash dreams
That I relive at 6pm on winter drives
Down the silent motorway, knowing
It would be a subtle way to go,
Thinking these thoughts beneath
The thrum-and-thrashing shout
Of the voice that tells me candidly
“So long as you die young, your lack
Of any real purpose is out of your hands,
And you will be known for your potential
Rather than an abstract geriatric loss”.
Some time later, on a snowy walk
In what should be spring, I am unconsciously
Refining the thought: “it is better to die young
With wasted potential than to die old,
Having done nothing with a long and lucky life.”
This is a sentiment that I see in frozen river
And in headlight shine from every passing car.


This thing in me that is and isn’t me
Has crept so insidiously
Into every part and party in my life
That there is nowhere to run when it rears its ugly head
Demanding recompense, demanding sufferance.
I am a masochist held at my own lacking mercy.


Oh Lord let me lie here low,
Let me wallow, wild, in these waves,
I will ask nothing more,
Let me suffer in the shallows
Of my soul, in the hollow,
Let me lie here on the wood floor
Of the hallway, cold at night,
Creeping draft seeping through gaps
In the front door, outside world
Is full infectious – fever festers.
Fading out. Crying aloud. Dying now.


There is memoir clarity in the language one night,
Awake to the sound of disunisoned breath.
I am awake for the longest time.

And then I go.


It’s simple, human toilet me,
Yeah that’s right, just shit on me,
Diaper me imminently baby,
I’m garbage, me, unsanitary,
Unsatisfactorily nothing, see?
Fuck me up, make me unclean –
I’m begging you to take a seat
And render me some worthless piece
Until they deem me obsolete.
Take my excess flesh and eat it
I don’t want it.
Just go ahead and startle me,
Human rats in the underground
Licking heads, licking dirt, scurry, hurt,
Rat in the world, breathing downstream.

Toilet more than human now
Porcelain receptacle for hatred
Fill me fill me fill me
Sewage and fail to drain me
Fill me fill me
You couldn’t make me feel more shit
Only I can make me feel like shit
Only I
And the toilet
And the garbage
In the bowl it all turns to shit
And with a flush my mind goes –



Catatonic. The body speaks for itself.

Grey blanket heavy death shroud weighed down.
First slapped face, first punched neck,
Black eye, rent hair on the sofa, black dye,
Grey blanket keeps light out of eyes.
Arms fly, kamikaze pilots, up and down dead.
Shortfin mako shark swam into a wall
And oxygen starved sank, long to-do list.
There are eights knives and two pairs of scissors
In the kitchen. Painkillers and prosecco
And untouched whiskey. Fire for the final party. Over there.

Over here. And still. And still here.
This is not death this is only dreaming
Of being awake. Soon just a gesture falling flat.
Soon there is nothing more than that silence.
Illness is not just the ghost story you tell.
This is a sick ghost. The body is its own sick host.
Its brain has died when it was needed most.

These are pretty ways of saying all the things
That I could not. When. Then.
Every word guttural uttered thought.
I – want – to – die.
Stuck. Stuck. Stuck.
(That living lump of flesh is silent.)


It is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to my ultimate low.
Come in, make yourself at home and wipe your feet
On my knotted face. I want to show you how the world ends.
I want to show you how I think my life is bound to end.


This living lump of flesh is living.


3. Riser / Go

Eventually and with no logic
A voice in your ear is there
To drag you clear from the trap:
“You’re not lost, just looking.”

Eventually and with no logic
A voice in my ear sends me
Into another trap, clear as day:
“Get lost. Keep going. Keep looking.”


I am aware the illusion in passing.
This is not triumph this is rising action
Crescendo, merely a path to a climax
And then the fall, for the rest of time.
I am setting myself up for a messy death,
A lack of rewarding resolution.


Addict on a binge buying paper
Void-fill, buying books, buying weight
Just to make the days go by,
Eating extra meals to mark time,
Fucking bodies just because.
If I spend everything I have maybe then
I can consume the world in one sitting.
Maybe then I won’t house oblivion in me.


You tell me you can’t keep up
As if I’m an athlete
As if I’m a rocket
As if I’m propulsion, personified,
A devastating engine that flames
The world around it and you
Are caught in the flames
In the very centre of the launch pad.
I try to slow down to give you time
For your devastated char to catch up,
To join me on a trip to Pluto.
You don’t want to come with me
Where it’s cold, where there’s no air.
You want to stay on earth where it’s safer.


Carrie Mathison, oh you patron saint
Of the bipolar antihero,
Protect us as you protect your country,
Love us for we are a broken America
With a volatile mood and frantic laws.
Praise Carrie Fisher, our queen
And fearless leader, electric lady,
Praise! This new unholy pantheon,
I am worshipping you as the sun,
We are praying to you all to guide us.
We are pleading for your mercy.
We are dying for your love to fix us.


I will be the one to save the world
And I will do it with my blood or tears
Both poured out from limitless reserves
In the name of the greater cause
That I can never quite articulate.


This word is meant to question meaning:
This solipsistic effort of the sodden self
This collapsing projection of my ego
This desperate memoir that cries
This is happening to me, how is
This happening to me? How
This is my life. Say how is
This “I” me?


And sometimes when I manic go
Walking go pacing in the dark
Go suburban night and manic steps
Go manic feet when manic thoughts
Make me Manic Me, and go with
Manic energy, go endlessly,
Burning off that excess life in me
And the needs that I need,
Go future scenes that will define
Some Future Me that still
Is going, more, until becoming
Lesser, less, the pit of me go,
Plummeting into the pit in me
So I go and I am gone,
I go and into nothing, go.

Sometimes I go and I go
Until I go –


4. Outside

I am sick to life of sadness. I leave it all behind.

Oh god, my gods, I am praying,
I am on my knees at your altar,
Constituting my own reality;
I bow my head and spine in your light
And say a prayer in every language pleading:
Let me live. Let me live. Let me live.

I go

Winter Miscellany II

Juliano Zaffino

 'Winter is the perfect time to listen...'

'Winter is the perfect time to listen...'

In December 2016 I posted a series of poems, Winter Miscellany, that I had been working on towards the end of that year. It may have taken me a bit longer this time, but I have been working on a follow-up series of poems for the past few months (obviously titled Winter Miscellany II) that I am now ready to share with the world. In 2017 I read a whole load of contemporary poetry and felt constantly challenged and inspired by it and I hope anyone who reads this will feel that these fifteen poems were written by a different person to my previous eleven wintery works. 

1. Winter Playlist (Overture)
2. Physical (but not by Olivia Newton John)
3. Love / More
4. I Want St Vincent To Soundtrack The Apocalypse
5. Theatre Thoughts
6. Towers
7. Fortune
8. Existential Movement, Winter Version
9. Mug House Inn
10. Crowded
11. Begetting
12. Ama's Song (Hymn For The Non-Existent)
13. Avalanche
14. New
15. I Want To Write A Poem And Call It A Sonnet (Coda)


Winter Playlist (Overture)

Winter is the perfect time to listen
To the apocalyptic sound
Of your own failing heart,
Struggling along to an electronic dirge
And thinking on the death of everything.

This is an exercise in clarification
Or crystallisation, the way
The paint on a car will shine
Diamonds in your eyes
When it’s frozen over, frozen shut.

Being stuck in the static white
As nuclear war materialises
In between casual racism
And the most unholy forecasts
Heavy snow in blackest night
And unwanted sexual advances.

I live in a padded ice palace
Rocking, raving, insanely praying
To drown out the sound
Of your sexy satanic whispers saying:
“These are the times we live in, baby.”

Now is the winter of our discontent.
I guess?


Physical (but not by Olivia Newton John)

There are the physical traumas
Done unto the body
And the psychic traumas
Done through the body,
Unto everything that is not the body -
Both feel it.

In all my darkest sleep
I feel the scars
Of those old unwanted touches
Searing through my being.
I recoil from your hands and cry:
Leave me behind.

Please leave me behind.


Love / More

I live my life ten years in the past
And hold hands with myself when we walk apart in public.
In my mind’s eye I remain crushed
By unrequited loves and inescapable closet-quagmires,
Still angry, always, tweeting and seething and screaming:
“We’re here standing on the threshold of our family’s home
Screaming out that we want to be loved, that we need to be loved.”
And then I think of Kate Tempest proclaiming
“I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more”,
And I think, yeah, that’s it really. That’s where we need to be.


I Want St Vincent To Soundtrack The Apocalypse

There are two scenarios for the end of the world.

One in which you listen to ‘Smoking Section’ as you stare out of your window and sing, insistently, “it’s not the end” while the intense electro-pulse contradicts you, and the music and your singing and the end of the world are all completely out of time.

The other is that you don’t really quite exist: there are two things in existence only and one is the end of existence and the other is an intense and seemingly endless electro-pulse that suddenly gives way to the mournful insistence that “it’s not the end”.

What I mean to say is that I’d be happy to listen to St Vincent while the world burns, and failing that, I’d be happy for the world to burn to the sound of St Vincent. The old gods are screaming. What could be better than love?


Theatre Thoughts

Michael Billington is my least favourite critic
Whose relevance obviously has an upper-limit.
Mired cheek-deep in old-school sexist sentiment
He sticks to my mind’s shoe like shitty sediment.
And don’t even ask me about Emma bloody Rice,
The dictator-director who paid a terrible price.

As young Icarus flew too close to the sun
Her Twelfth Night should not have been done;
Drag karaoke and the most colourful sights
Could not contravene the succession of blights:
Casual homophobia dressed excessively in pink
On a ruthlessly captained ship that I long to sink.

If these verses offend your sensibilities
Just know that I speak in hostilities
Because I care more than I can handle
For the words of those who hold the mantle
And the deeds of false pathetic prophets
Burying their values under thirst for profits.

Next time I’ll write in a way less hard,
Singing praises for the young new guard;
Worship at the altar of unknown pioneers
Running the world from bold new frontiers –
These heroes of mine too manifold to name
Who save my passion from enduring shame.



Once there was a morbid fascination
With two burning buildings toppling
And the people jumping out of them.
For a while it fades into history,
Textbooks and film and nightmare.
I don’t think about such insanity
Again until I’m there, in person,
To pay witness to immeasurable loss.

Now here beneath this monument,
Teary-eyed, I find myself acutely aware
Of how much the human heart can hold –
And the requisite force to bend steel –
And the limits of human imagination –
And the pressure of spiritual vertigo –
And the pornographic exploitation
Of suffering, this memorial foundation.



Whatever happened to the fucking Ferris Wheel?
Up it went to fanfare and applause,
And so it stayed with eyerolls and ordeal.
Then down it fell in silence, without cause?
I guess that’s how it is and how it goes,
And how it goes, around it goes.


Existential Movement, Winter Version

Crashing out on a hotel bed
It’s the middle of December
And the night outside
Is all icebergs and black holes.
“Is this my life?”
This is my life.

There is a vice-like tiredness
That grips me by the throat.

There is an aching tiredness
That breaks my ribcage like a pestle.

Crashing out in my own bed
It’s nearly the end of December
And the night outside
Is liquid hydrogen and vantablack.
“This is my life.”
Is this my life?


Mug House Inn

I want to be next door
In the Mug House Inn
Even though their sign
Looks as though it were
Designed by a toddler
Using Microsoft Paint.
I want to be in there
Where it looks like it’s
Colder, where the median
Age of their patrons
Is somewhat older,
Where I’m safe
From the would-be comfort
Of my should-be
Compatriots. I want to be
In there in a dry time,
Living out an alcohol embargo
As the only sane man alive.

Tomorrow I go alone
To the Mug House Inn
And I sit in my booth
Of solitude and sin
And stare outside
The windows and think
“Wouldn’t it be nice
To be out in the cold
Dark night, or even
Next door in the warm
Of last night’s
Social storm again?”
Anywhere but here.



You could say I’m secretly social,
Like a sleeper agent who salutes his overlord
In their shared slumber, or something
Less depressing. I surround myself
With other chess pieces just so I know
I’m not the only one who is moved.



I think of love as the Underground map
Intertwining and dividing,
Living proof of the mundane facts:
A single line is insufficient for going
To all the places you need to go.
I see the once-lost vestige of hope
In maps that cast us irretrievably
Backwards into our shared past
And vast architectural triumphs
Of a gone and forgotten century,
Brutally beautiful in the winter blue.

On the train they ask me “why are all
Of your poems about...
Infidelity?” And I tell them it’s because
I’m afraid of what was and what’s to come,
Or I am incredibly aroused by the worst
Things the human psyche can hold on to.
Maybe it’s because I see poetry
In setting your house on fire blindly
Just to keep yourself warm at night.
Maybe I’m just a monogamous gay man
Fighting with irony that boring trope
Of the gay man who fucks anything
With a pulse and a penis.
Well I guess it must be one of those.

I am a dog at the door waiting...
For you, to come home, alone.


Ama’s Song (Hymn For The Non-Existent)

I love you too much to bear it.
I want you to know how it is.
You must embark on this journey.

For Ama,
As addicted as I ever am,
Oh Ama,
I’ve been making up people again.
My Ama,
I need you as my only friend,
God, Ama,
Please tell me this isn’t the end.

You must embark on this journey.
I want you to know how it is.
I love you much too much to bear it.



I don’t know what to think
When you smile in my direction
And you bury me alive
In an avalanche of warm confusion.

You make me exposed-secrets seen.
You make me murdered-baby obscene.
You make me violent-banshee keen.
You make me future-fascist machine.
You make me tiny-troubled teen.
You make me triumphant-pageant queen.

This is a poem about new love
And the principle of misdirection.
I want to bury you alive
In an avalanche of compliments.



New Year New Me, right?
It’s old bullshit and I refute it every year.
Then here I am at midnight
Doing the same things that stranded me here.

But the winds have shifted,
And they carry a quiet voice that tells me
To use the gifts that I was gifted
So that I might improve the world we see.

I tell myself that I can do it,
That each of us as one can fix our land;
If only I could make myself commit
To the cause of newness here at hand.

I want to change the paradigm;
I’m sick of living in these times of fear.
There is no better time
For a New Me than this, the New Year.


I Want To Write A Poem And Call It A Sonnet (Coda)

I want to write a poem
And call it a sonnet even though it’s not
Because I think it communicates something
Of the struggle
And the stricture
Of the structure and the form
And my flagrant disregard for you,
For your thoughts and feelings, for the past.
But I’m afraid you’ll take it literally and
Explain it to me. I’d rather be deaf.

I want to write a poem
In which I say that I have marooned myself
In our relationship,
By which I mean that I wanted this
And yet – I wanted it badly – and yet
I feel that I have nowhere to go,
Alone in the vast wilderness, roving
Through rolling sandbanks
In search of some other thing
I can never have. But I’m
Fairly certain you won’t understand,
And you’ll only focus
On the vague references to
Infidelity and adultery and polygamy
And not on the fact that somewhere
Somehow a ship was wrecked.

I want to write a poem
In which I leave my last will and testament,
Meditating with certain finality
On my own death, impending,
On suicide, on demise,
All the usual images: black lake,
End of days, out in the atmosphere
Or else careening out in freefall like
That dream,
The one I had when I was a kid,
Pretty much every night,
Or when I was much older,
Pretty much every day,
The me I was before the meds,
The me I was after the meds.
But I won’t be taken away
Or even entertain the notion
Because frankly I’d prefer to be falling
Forever than trapped in some place
I’d never get out of
Even though – as you know –
I’m terrified of falling to my death.

I want to write a poem about the things I think
And the things I mean but I’m afraid
You can’t tell the difference.