No One Sees Until They’re Dead by Mary Julia Klimenko

Take me back to Italy where you threw my suitcase out of the third story window at midnight, and I screamed, “Fuck you.” and ran downstairs and sat on my suitcase in the middle of the cobblestone street thinking about why there weren’t any fucking taxis in Cararra until a scorpion began a steady crawl toward me, and I ran back upstairs dragging my suitcase behind me and made up with you because I wanted to get back into your bed, not because I loved you but because I loved you more than the scorpion on the street.

I wrote poems, hundreds, thousands, about you, to you, for you. I watched your hands use the axe to make her shoulders smaller, put big white squares of paper on the floor to paint her, the woman you loved, to scoop up handfuls of wet plaster and press it between her legs, firmly moving your hand up to her belly. We lived in Borges’ aleph where music and poetry kept the world on the other side of the door.

That was the story of our lives.

We fell into each other breathless and on fire, rather you laid me across your painting and neither of us cared if it was dry. You said I was awkward in a way that fascinated you and painted me in soft water colors and deep oil colors and sculpted me without ever giving me a face, my hands at my sides, collarbones prominent or disappearing into a wall or balancing on my feet and hands or some other impossible pose and you called me impossible and I called you mean and you touched me and told me to come to you and I touched you and breathed into the small space between your throat and shoulder.

I loved you and you didn’t love me. You loved me and I didn’t love you. We loved each other and then neither of us loved the other. We knew it would never end. We left the real world behind for the unnamed place, no road signs or cities, just the color of the air in the studio, amber. We lived in poems, plaster, paintings, sculptures, music, each other, feeling, not naming or discussing or figuring anything out, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, we gave ourselves to the unnamable, indefinable until you didn’t know me anymore.

I saw the look, the light gone from your eyes; I was the mirror the axe shattered. I didn’t know where you were or how you could have gone away. Mi vida, you were everything, every kiss, every touch, every midnight. With you gone, I never existed. Don’t leave me here without you who taught me how to walk without shoes, fly without wings, dance without permission, to love until my heart ached and then to love you even more. This song is a slow, sad surrender.

No one sees until they are dead.

about the author:


Mary Julia Klimenko obtained her BA & MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University where she taught Creative Writing for two years before returning to school to get a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. She divides her time between her private psychotherapy practice and writing. She has a chapbook published by Spire Press, Source Vein, is published in numerous literary journals and has three limited edition books in print in collaboration with artist Manuel Neri. She has been his primary model and collaborator for the past four decades.