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  • Alex Bortell

what exists

The dirt under my nails exists. The tire marks on the driveway exist. The hair in the comb on my shower’s window sill exists. The trash I leave in the hallway exists. The lint I find in my pockets and in the dryer exists. Coins lost in purses exist. A bloodied nose exists. The memory of raking leaves and the leaves exist. The tightness in my chest when I drive past the neighborhood full of people I killed and buried yet they keep calling me exists, and those people exist too, and so do the voicemails from their missed calls, as does my phone when there are voicemails and missed calls on it. Strangers who smile at you when you pass on the sidewalk exist, but mostly the smile. So do the paw prints in the concrete, the pile of shit on the corner, the glass bottle on the bench, and now the concrete and the corner and the bench exist. The forgotten bag of takeout on the train exists. The dead skin I scrub off in the morning exists. The dust that lines the molding exists, and the mold does too. A photograph exists. A memory of the photograph exists. A memory of what happened that the photograph stole exists, whether the memory is true or not. The feeling of someone standing behind me exists. Someone standing behind me might exist, but only if I can see them. A cough exists. A laugh exists. A yawn exists. Chewing exists, and so does the food left on the plate when you’re done. Doors exist, slowly eating away at their frames. The bell that chimes when I open it exists too, as does the chime. The pillows and sheets I left unmade exist. The person lying in my bed in my unmade sheets exists, and they will continue to exist even when I am not looking. I know they exist because a chair exists when it has been moved, and a shirt exists when it has been abandoned on the floor, and the floor exists when it creaks, and the creaking exists because someone who existed cut the wood, which existed, and made floors that remind me of their existence when the person who exists in my bed gets up and walks across them, and then they creak, a sound that exists whether or not I can hear it from here. A hole in a wall exists. A wet towel exists. A lost sock exists. A broken bone exists. Fire exists but only when it is close enough to burn. Then a burn exists. Then a scab exists. The sun exists when it blinds me or burns me like the fire. A bus exists when it is late. My name exists when it is written or read or spoken aloud. My thoughts exist once they are shared. My shoes exist once they are scuffed. A painting exists but the thing it is a painting of might not. A place exists only when it is remembered. That memory exists whether I would like it to or not. My body exists when it aches. My teeth exist when I chew or grind them together, or if my tongue gets cut on a canine. Then my tongue exists. My father exists. My mother exists. Even I exist, on occasion.

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