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I have been alone before I knew what that word meant.

I drank down poems about solitude as a teenager
and savored its treacly sadness, sweet like gula melaka
and as smooth as P. Ramlee's voice wooing
a sarong-clad school teacher in black-and-white cinema.

It was a melancholy romance that cushioned the bleak blow
of surviving only on one's own limited energy reserves.

I grew adept.

I became a generator not just for myself
but for others, stray travelers and passers-by.
Generating light, warmth, and comfort.


It was such a delicious word,
filled with sad nobility,
the taste of dark cherries
swirled with dark liquors
Hades would not turn down.


Solitude became less palatable one day;
it carried the bleakness of unwatered gravel.
It was an isolation that had lost the romance of salvation.

Perhaps someone would change this fundamental condition—
perhaps love or desire would transform this dynamic.
This too was a romance, too luscious for words,
like the libido-teasing scent of fingers burned by guitar strings
or lychees, drizzled with the syrup of cane sugar.

That particular flavour died the night someone taught me
that to be possessed was to witness my body
transformed into a party I was not invited to attend.

It danced its own dance while my soul remained
in a dark hall encircled by bleak mirrors;
my face staring back at me as mathematics, theoretical physics,
eternal debates circling around a priori versus a posteriori
distracted me from staring at the dance that happened,
separate from my conscious self,
constructing a textbook endorsement for
epiphenomenalism out of my profound dismay.

This too was foreordained within the confines
of black-and-white cinema.

The generator switched off.

Switching it back on required
a shift in frequency and voltage.
I learned to embrace the bleakness
and to reverse my polarities.

My generator is now fueled by dark matter
exuding enough pull to repel and to swallow universes.

Nin Harris is an author, poet, and tenured postcolonial Gothic scholar who exists in a perpetual state of unheimlich. Nin writes Gothic fiction, cyberpunk, nerdcore post-apocalyptic fiction, planetary romance, and various other forms of hyphenated weird fiction. Nin’s publishing credits include Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and The Dark.
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15 Jul 2024

I inherited the molting, which my mother will deny; she’ll insist it’s a thing only women do, each heartbreak withering from the body like a petal.
a sand trail ever fungible, called to reconcile the syrupy baubles—resplendent pineapple geodes
Who chose who spoke? Who silenced the sparrow?
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