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This is a work of fiction. All references to mental illness, self-harm, or related themes do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—or events is purely coincidental. Discretion is advised.

To M. N.

Table of Contents:

I. isolation


Feb. 14  




II. sweet disconnect

untitled document 

Glance at Rolled-Up Sleeve 

afternoon shower 

Left Anterior Forearm 

Staring Out Window 

Mar. 15 


III. the last laugh

The Other Choice


About the Author

About the Broadside

I. isolation



Your pearl eyes

almost seem to glow

from across the room—


expressive, aware,

yet unrelenting—devoid of any

interpretive clue. 


Should I tell you 

that your irises

remind me of 


spring puddles

under calm skies?

Or should I complement 


your choice of style—

autumn colors in

the winter?



Perhaps I shouldn’t.


Perhaps I should

stand off

to the side—a distant 


observer admiring

you from afar—



with the

thought of


“Feb. 14”


black leaves gather in the gutter 

mist puddles by the wet street

drenched in a cold sweat

sending snakes of steam into 

hot air where frozen ground 

meets the wind


I look at you in the yellow

glow of the 10 PM lights

a set of pale eyes staring out  

from behind the wall of black

a subtle expression

a smile

or something else


who were you 

all those years ago


your eyes blink 

and I turn toward the window 

content in shadows alone 

without intention

withdrawn from your vision by

half-absent memories leading me aimlessly

down abandoned allies

towards abstractions of

sedated loneliness


the streetlight flickers

casting the lot under constant dark

and when I turn back 

a silhouette consumes you

and I see nothing


I want to know you

why can’t I know you




My eyes see nothing 

but reflections—


Orange light on wet sidewalks;

lightning glowing blue in the mist;

my wet-paper face in a puddle.


I was there,

then I wasn’t—

she stepped in the puddle

and I vanished.



snow melting

leaving impressions of past

photographs and

sensations visible on the

brown-moss grass and

gray-water puddles floating

like some translucent dream

down familiar 

concrete tubes


doesn’t there come a time when

I should reach an apex

of this cliff from which

I must jump

to the bottom

where there is nowhere left

to go


filled with or somewhat swelling with 

these images of dream violence

that push me against the doors against 

the windows against 

the walls against 

the breath of my speechless 

lungs and withering verbiage to carry 

on the conversation in no other way besides 





Light flurries 

by lamppost amber

glow—black flakes

in its shadow—


falling by the wayside

of the sidewalk

as I persist, head cast

below the eyes of onlookers


who see me for what they make me:

disposable article—thrown away

person—cast to the cobbles

and abandoned.


I turn towards the knife wind and—

for a moment in the radiant halo—

I see you watching

from behind the snow:


hungry eyes, thirsting

eyes bleeding the hope

of normalcy from what’s left

of my fractured will.


I question methods, yet I know 

desire: the abstract plight—

my suffering—the nectar 

from which you feed.


I listen to Paul Simon from beyond the 

scratched record. Behold my last solace—

isolation, sweet disconnect—

like a rock cast into the sea.


II. sweet disconnect

“untitled document”

the faces melt

into a singular gray mass 

amalgam of 

demented eyes searching

inside outside

a selfish projection 


where am i 

       i recognize none of you


voice assimilation into

swelled disillusion

cacophonous shriek

laughter behind 

expressions engulfed

likewise the sinister expanse

of the vast silent space

floor crumbling below 

into abyssal 

shade the healing undone 

the warm blood



i am alone

       i am talking to no one


“Glance at Rolled-Up Sleeve”


look down at forearm

disrupt canvas

spotted effigy


pale blank undone by

yellow swelling

and crimson rings


nervous impulse

like a stinging needle

piercing CNS


with blue glow 

and the bursting 

of memories

into flame

my thoughts exactly

as zippo tongues


gently melt 

away my 




and counting

4 more


and counting

till they gloss over

like oblong nickels


vanish under 

my black 

sleeve and are



“afternoon shower”

under the hot waterfall under the

boiling stream running 

down my back running

down the soft part of my forearm running 

over the thin cuts into

the shallow incisions turning

red the water against

my pale skin in a

christ-like transition in my 

total indignity as I hide my 

face behind my 

wrist behind my

blood eyes obscured 

only slightly as to 

continue my vitriol as to 

continue my brooding glare at  

the mirror like the

fallen angel of 

milton like the

biblical painting of


“Left Anterior Forearm” 

A reconstructed erasure from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch


I climb up here and went to shit

take on an ominous grey-green body

like a great black blob of jelly

so nasty

I stink like a old rotten 



I Have no pride

I feel revulsion

I m something rotten like compost


I scream

I disappear

caught in the act and destroyed with a flame



I get blue

go nuts

scream 'What you think you are doing?'

my skin with black wounds 

with a soft blue flame 

I go for another 

and disappear in a cloud of smoke


assault the human image

broad deformity and blighted flesh

I scream "I got the fear" 

and A year later 


I was dead.


“Staring Out Window”


Damp asphalt mirroring

ochre lamp light, 

weathered fence—

ashen by sun-bleach summers—


wet painted by mossy

stains slipping green between

rotting grain. Nude trees—

thin-limbed, wet-trunked, skeletal—


cutting black lines into the gray sky,

the broad uniform desolation

cast above the neighborhood

like a hood of gloom


over the verdant green grass 

thrice watered by Ohio winter—

the first snow, the second snow,

the rainfall that melts the slush.


I see myself in the reflection—a pale, 

flat-faced specter in the colorless glass, 

pearl eyes cast onto myself, into myself—

as if staring at another person.


My brother stirs in the other room—

shut the door, lock myself within. 

Alone—hidden in my isolated refuge—

with the only other I can trust:


the familiar shade—my known friend—

mirrored in the window.

“Mar. 15”


the blinding light 

from my flickering desk lamp

carves the soft darkness

like a sharp silver knife


oak chair creaking

under my weight 

as I shift my hands shaking like 

burroughs off junk


I yank the lit match

away from my flesh the

faint orange glow the 

stinging fucking hole in 


my wet-paper skin singed 

veins peeling 

cellophane tissue

covering the wounds


with yellow fluid

and the smell of urine

mind in a madhouse spinning

record on the turntable 


bill evans playing

california here I come

eyes in the mirror

my eyes in the mirror seeing


face muscles melting

wax skin severed tendon

eye sockets

bleeding empty nervous


impulse overtaking me

the one who is watched

the deanxietized man

charred black flesh


crawling black meat

static skipping record 

blending screams into music the gun 

in my drawer telling me earnestly


to paint the walls with my scalp


the amorphous shapes move

they speak

they scare me


i wish i knew them

but i am ignorant

to their parts of speech

input surroundings

output warped diction

they whisper my fears


similar the faces

of the disjoint mass

resembling in essence

blank visage

fuzzy liminal

liquid blur


i tried to make peace 

but they are peaceless

and i am arrogant


there is no contact

osamu dazai

i am not one of you


i am alone 

i am talking to no one


i am alone

i am talking to you


III. the last laugh

“The Other Choice”


I was with him.

He was with me.

We were sitting together

under the tree


with vexing eyes

and a loathly stare,

watching each branch

with a brooding glare.


He and I;

we shared a face—

we shared a voice—

we shared a race.


We knew contempt.

We scorned the leaves:

the vibrant red—

the life: its seed—


its lively smile—

its bashful eyes—

its joyous touch—

its prideful guise—


its glowing color—

its tender skin—

its playful hands—

its wrists: so thin.


I turned to him—

he, my lover

we knew the thoughts

of each other.


He held the ax

within his grip—

sharp edge swinging

when his arm would dip.


He tossed the blade,

pointing to the trunk.

I chopped for hours—

tore it to chunks.

I slashed all branches—

sliced all shoots.

I doused it in gas—

scorched all the roots.


The wood—pale and white—

charred with the bark.

The night—cool and quiet—

set ablaze in the dark.


And at the side of the fire,

I breathed in the heat—

the smoke and the ash

had a scent that was sweet.


He and I;

we watched it burn:

orange leaves sizzling—

black twigs spurned—


and when it was done,

we crawled to the fields;

among the ashes,

together we kneeled.


Though it may be over—

he whispered to me

that you’ll no longer scream,

and you’ll no longer weep,


and you’ll no longer suffer—

perhaps you will learn,

that—for all you’ve done here—

in the end, you will burn.


I. isolation

       Feb. 14

  • Title is in reference to Saint Valentine's Day, which is celebrated on February 14th.


  • Title and final stanza are in reference to the song “I Am a Rock” by Paul Simon, first featured on his 1965 album The Paul Simon Songbook.


II. sweet disconnect

       Glance at Rolled-Up Sleeve

  • The term “CNS” in line 3 of stanza 3 is a common abbreviation for the central nervous system.

       afternoon shower

  • Lines 6-9 are in reference to the biblical account of Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11 KJV)

  • Lines 17-19 are in reference to the poem Paradise Lost by John Milton.

  • Lines 19-21 are in reference to the painting The Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel.

       Left Anterior Forearm

  • Title is in reference to the anatomical position of the soft part of the forearm, located on the same side of the arm as the palm of the hand.

  • Text is sampled from a chapter of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs titled “The Rube.”

       Mar. 15

  • Title is in reference to The Ides of March, which correspond to March 15th.

  • Line 4 of stanza 2 is in reference to author William S. Burroughs, who suffered from heroin addiction.

  • Lines 1-2 of stanza 6 are in reference to the album California Here I Come by Bill Evans, released posthumously in 1982.

  • Line 3 of stanza 8 is in reference to a chapter of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs titled “Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry.”

  • Line 1 of stanza 9  is in reference to a chapter of Naked Lunch by William  S. Burroughs titled “The Black Meat.”


  • Lines 19-21 are in reference to the novel No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai.

author photo.jpg

About the Author

Adam Willis is a Junior Biology & English, creative writing double major at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. His poetry, personal essay, and illustrations have been published in several local journals, including Quiz & Quill, Flip the Page, and Atelier Realm. Adam uses his work as an outlet for exploring the themes of memory, identity, and interpersonal relationships. In this regard, his creative process is therapeutic.

About the Broadside

The broadside installation for this collection was designed to resemble the self-harm scars of the author. Although the use of this imagery brings to mind the traumatic experiences that caused their formation, the representation of these scars in this broadside allows the author to claim agency over his past. It’s likely that these scars may never fully heal; however, their existence shouldn’t be the cause of perpetual shame, disgust, and regret. Acceptance is the gateway to true healing—the healing of the soul. Turning his scars into art is this author’s path to acceptance. 

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