In Retreat as Collateral Damage. {poetry}


A few years back, I had been spending a considerable amount of time visiting an ailing relative in the hospital.

In the same critical care unit as his was a woman in her late 60s with an ancient beauty whose only human company was that of the medical staff. For the many weeks I spent going back and forth the corridor that separated her from the rest of the world, I would sense her noticing my need to check up on her, albeit her being a complete stranger.

I had felt a certain connection to her, as though we shared blood or bread from a previous life. I never got to know who she was, nor what she sounded like. This poem is me trying to understand the thoughts that might have sailed through her tired mind as she lay waiting in that isolated cubicle.

This poem is also a calling to its readers to prioritize health over all things, especially while living in a world that is constantly trying to make us sick.


What is there to gain
from an erred calculation in
corporeal architecture?
Who is at fault?
My fingers shudder when I attempt
to point them
at the sky that rests
behind my cage,
enveloping my unrest,
throwing its freedom at my face.
I am worn out.
I have only lost, lost, lost
my years
my unripe years
that used to precede me
when I walked
when I walked.
Oh I, I have been referred to as moon,
sun, light, asset.
Venus incarnate.
I have been placed meticulously
in dreams,
and prayed for,
and lusted after.
I have breathed fire and liked
its taste.
I have sprouted delirium
in many mortal men.
I have been carried and placed atop cathedrae,
beneath golden wreaths.
My name has been nectar for thirsty tongues.
I have been used as means to resurrect
lividity in mortal men.
Yet what remains of my fruit?
My fire?
All sucked off me
alongside my verve,
my royalty.
I have nothing left, nothing
but bulging bones and thoughts
in the foreground
of my evanesced presence.
I have melted into these white sheets
along with my dripping liquids.
I know no shame, only its nearness.
I know no color, only its lack.
My life has been swiveling around a field
of cold minerals and skins.
I reek of calcium, iron, concrete.
I go to sleep under the dry scent
of overcooked rice and
undercured disease next door.
Yesterday I sensed the serving
of my neighbor himself
atop a rolling rectangular table
of stainless steel,
into a box of also stainless steel,
then that of wood, presumably
all prepped and packaged for earth
and earthworms,
I heard.
I heard the fragments of his wife
grieving as they dropped
onto the floor
of the long white corridor
like iron nails let loose
right outside my metallic door.
Ah, to return to the earth in splinters
of decayed flesh!
Will that be my grand retreat
from this withered room?
Will I, next off, be served as food
to the land
that now feeds me?
Is a telluric symbiosis all this fustian charade
of an existence
meant to be?


Perla Tsoler Kantarjian is writer, journalist, poetry editor, English literature instructor, and flow artist from Beirut. She spends her days chasing the thoughts that vivify the rigidity encircling her brain and bring her vessels to a dance. Her writings have been published on various platforms including Bookstr, Rebelle Society, Annahar Newspaper, The Armenian Weekly, and Elephant Journal.  You can also find snippets of her poetic pieces on Instagram.


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