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The Author Is Dead

Juliano Zaffino - The Author Is Dead - Blog

Twelve Shirts, None Of Them Your Size

Juliano Zaffino

‘a crevice in the bed, an absence in the air’

‘a crevice in the bed, an absence in the air’

You come home to a half-full wardrobe,
Dirty laundry on the floor, hamper overflowing
With clothes that aren’t yours.
In the wardrobe hanging there are twelve shirts,
None of them your size, and sweaters
That you’re going to wear some nights
Although they swamp you, gown-like,
Just to feel close to someone, to live in a time
You lost when you lost him.

And there are socks, and underwear, dozens
Of pairs of each, luxurious soft but destined
For the fabric slaughterhouse, a cutting end
To every stitch and thread, a life unspooled.

And you’ll keep your own wardrobe, obviously,
And some day some other other man’s attire
Will hang from the same steel bar, a smaller fit
For a smaller, better fit. Where will those
Twelve shirts hang then? Will you keep them
Under your bed, or in the spare bedroom?
Will you burn every printed pattern just to feel
Lighter? The clothes and every memory will live
And die with you, costume couture.

He hangs up twelve shirts freshly ironed,
None of them your size; he isn’t gone yet
And still has clothes left to live in, idling outfits.
He’s lying in bed watching you undress,
Watching you drape jeans over the headboard
With your phone reflected on your face, and he
Is wondering what would happen to his clothes
Without him there to wear them. You
Are the only one who would notice them,
All those empty shirts left alone, left forlorn,
A crevice in the bed, an absence in the air.
He waits for you to crawl in next to him,
To warm him up, to take his mind off the prospect,
The shirts that hang like hollow men.


Juliano Zaffino

‘Elevated by novelty and contact highs, / Clutching the lampshade above my bed, / So made up and undisturbed’

‘Elevated by novelty and contact highs, / Clutching the lampshade above my bed, / So made up and undisturbed’

I’ve been hiding from you
From city to city, sleepless nights compounded
Through hotel corridors and hailing departures,
In a vague and warm delirium
Embracing every vessel in my stead,
Some higher being fully formed, fully functional,
Unrelated to the body that grounds me
Elevated by novelty and contact highs,
Clutching the lampshade above my bed,
So made up and undisturbed

I want to do good in the ways that I can
But you are waiting for me,
In the way that you do, that says “you cannot escape forever”
Even as I’m staring down a bright new future –
You are a silhouette in the distance
Beckoning, threatening,
But I will not loose my grip on the acts I have witnessed
To let you hide the sun at my back again, diminishing;
The world will be only ever golden things
And rushes of brilliance marching, onwards

I’m coming home to you
I just want to have one more weightless moment
Another chance to rest revolving feet
To be the most myself I’ve ever been
To make you the tiniest landmass ever seen
Before you embrace me as my heavy pet drooling, biting,
When you mark me again,
When I am all yours,
The slate of that elated sky wiped clean.

Three Sonnets

Juliano Zaffino

‘… And I am all but helpless before it, / This compulsion to consume everything, / To enter and annihilate the world...’

‘… And I am all but helpless before it, / This compulsion to consume everything, / To enter and annihilate the world...’

“The sonnet has been dead for centuries”
Is a good title for the first sonnet
In a detached modern sonnet sequence
Written ironically to fuck with you;
The opening number will double up,
An overture for grave disappointment
And a monument erected with hate
To usher in the revenant sequence.
Every buried sonnet now uprising
Against the dictatorial device
Of shifting public tastes and fantasies,
Artful worship of popular living.
This sonnet is a god resurrected,
Giving its life so all sonnets may live.


I don’t notice your presence in the crowd
Until some twenty-seven minutes through,
Long after I had laughed myself silly,
Defences and pretences forsaken.
I sit directly in your sights, bird-like,
Accidental quarry stuck squirming slow
Under your devastating maybe-gaze,
My unworthiness ever magnified.
When the show is over I flee my seat
Hoping for the cleanest homeward exit
Stricken by the sight of your back, so close,
The threat of our contact overwhelming.
Yours is a power great and terrible
That reduces me to useless nothing.


Images divorced from meaning fly out
Spectral from blue-lit phone screens merciless,
Throwing up necessity in my lap
On endless journeys towards ingestion;
Underground hurtling, head fairly hurting,
Taken in by every advertisement –
Eyes greedy eating every printed word,
Sickened by this sensory overload.
A desire to devour dictates
And I am all but helpless before it,
This compulsion to consume everything,
To enter and annihilate the world.
Give me your eternal conversation,
Let me savour every second with you.


Juliano Zaffino

‘We want to love but lack the tools / Not even knowing each other truly’

‘We want to love but lack the tools / Not even knowing each other truly’

When were you happy last and
What were you doing then?
The world has disintegrated around you
Fragments and ashen mounds rising
Monuments to mounting misery
Like a thousand long poems canonising
Your supposed boundless suffering
In disassociated verse, poorly written.
Can you recall the last time
You could get through the day?

Last night I watched for the third time
That episode of The Simpsons
Where Bart sells his soul to Milhouse
Bart hollows himself out blindly
The way I do every time I say “yes”
Inviting strangers and lovers
To step over and around me
The willing loving cup crying out
For them to tip me back and fill me up
Just to bestow upon me meaning
Like a paper-based soul transplant
But all the time I am the soulless one
Who feels nothing, in terror of death
As much as life, so void of knowledge,
So divorced from love and humour

Next week we will be here again
Sofa-side together for some sainted hours
There will be some frank discussion
And projected thoughts of mutual grandeur
We want to love but lack the tools
Not even knowing each other truly,
Beyond names or basic functionality
Wouldn’t we be so much happier
If we could just be honest with ourselves
If we could just admit it with finality
This endless horror of our unholy union

We exist solely in a future uncertain

I watch that episode of The Simpsons
Where Sideshow Bob is not the bad guy

You meditate on self-indulgent agonies
The infinite passions of Christ and cruelty
And the nothingness that occupies you

Heteroland Assortment

Juliano Zaffino

'Like the steady hum of the engine / Hurtling on through Heteroland country'

'Like the steady hum of the engine / Hurtling on through Heteroland country'

What follows is an assortment of six disparate poems from an in-progress series of poems titled 'Adventures In Heteroland'

1. Bloodline
2. Profile
3. Trainride Through Heteroland
4. Proud
5. All My Burdens
6. Life Story



The poems have died in my veins,
Sure – but there was a time
They were alive and kicking –
Breathing mostly in my mind
And gasping up on the page –

But the passage is stopped up –
All words meaningless,
My first language atomised,
A cold and nothing wasteland,
The blood turning solid inside me –

I’m obsessed with qualitative difference
In the sickly bloodstream,
The poison blindly inflicted
By water and air in Heteroland –
It replaces every drop of blood –

I want to write love songs
I want to write protest signs
I want to write myself happy,
Writing into oblivion and further.
But all that comes out is this:

Oh, this plaintive wailing;
A quagmire of irresolution;
And one contrived ending
Full of insincere optimism,
The blood will flood again!



“I’m not into faceless beings”, he says,
His face a generic blend of average twinkness,
Denoting nothing of any significance
Except for my own unattractive worthlessness.

This is a vapid place where vapid people go
To do vapid people things, burning up oxygen
With nothing but the slack-jawed drawing of breath.
I want to be vapid too. I want to be vapid like you.

We have learned from the emperors of Heteroland
To value faces and straightness and coded self-hatred
And fetishize all the unqueer nothings that bore us,
The orange wasteland a Guess Who? of our worst images.


Trainride Through Heteroland

He is sitting alone in front of you
Minding His business with a book
And the train stops at Wembley
Filling with dead-drunk men
When a particularly large and rude one
Shambling zombie-like
Takes the empty seat beside Him
Suffocating His comfort.

Now with contemptuous glances
Sizing Him up, the pink jumper,
The man mutters something –
Pretending not to hear
He puts His book down absently
Hiding His phone screen,
The desolate wasteland of Grindr,
Cutting His own hands off,
Shoulders bunched together ever closer
Growing ever smaller,
And the goodness of His Saturday
Dwindling now to rage
Like the steady hum of the engine
Hurtling on through Heteroland country –

You are there and you do nothing
Waiting for your stop to come.



You look so good in latex honey
I bet you’re sweaty
I bet it’s kind of freeing
To show off every part of you
Admired by your girlfriend
And her girlfriends
And all the men around you
Who want that tightness
They have no idea they can’t have
You’re the native son of Heteroland
But you look amazing
It’s any excuse to get drunk
You won’t get hate-crimed later
You’re a fucking lad


 All My Burdens

I carry a thousand infants
Weights around my neck
They humiliate
And coldly isolate me

There are toddlers
In my nightmares
Wailing their need
I can do nothing, dying

And children wake me
Hands like hooks
Snagging on my heart
They drag me into land

Even today alone
I have carried a pushchair
Up a flight of stairs
Underground, ashamed

I should have no babies
In Heteroland’s rule
All depravity and unlove
This lawless family

Will I ever be free
Escape from under
Burdensome children
How they hate me


Life Story

It’s not as interesting as you think
Your life story
It’s been lived before
A hundred times
Every damaged gay inhabitant of Heteroland
It was the premise of five screenplays
Last year alone
Your anguish is a trope
The joke they tell themselves
After fucking

Why would that stop you
The truth is irrelevant
When you are gloriously fucked up
An authentic artifice
Smithed in the fires of rage and abuse
Your sadness is orgasmic
The depths
Accessorising trauma
At parties in small circles online in prayer
It makes you so fucking cool
They all wish they were you