Two Poems

by Steven Breyak

Internet Self Search

A close friend in New Jersey whose name I will not disclose
googled herself some years ago and discovered
that she in fact lived in Germany where she taught
at gymnasium and painted breath-taking murals
throughout Munich and Berlin. She emailed
me pictures: "I had no idea of my potential," she wrote with
an lol. "I always knew you had it in you," I teased with a wink.

Having herself just finished art school and her cardboard canvases
getting no attention in Hoboken, my friend began keeping tabs
on her proceedings overseas. A blog was started and eventually
an entire dot-com was devoted to her anomaly. Within a year
of her self-discovery she—the German-she—was sited
all over Europe, her work maturing to this new worldliness
that stunned even me, really, almost to tears. Even on a computer screen
her work was so alive. My friend's site grew more sardonic in step
and hits were coming from all over the net; she was a comic success.

But on a real-life visit she seemed unstrung. "You should get out,"
I told her. "There's more to you than this." Her eyes darted at me
like a 2am conspiracy link. "I can't leave now. Have you seen what I've done
to the Zurich billboard show?" It was very funny. I couldn't help but laugh
despite my worry. "I'm making it. I can feel it," she said. And like a virus
it was true: within a week she was appearing in New York galleries.

"I'm scared," my friend said. "Don't worry," I told her, "she's not coming
to take your life, that's only in fairy tales." "No, I'm nervous.
What if we burn out too soon." "Honey, your work is far too good
for that. Did you see what you did to that Metro station in Paris? I never
knew such things were possible." "That's very sweet of you,
but this is New York. This could make or break me." "Darling,"
I told her, "you're fading, I can't even hear you anymore."

Before Photo
(From a Weight-Loss Ad)

The past is nothing but wrong. There's the fifty pounds
but the electric hasn't been paid either. The expensive flashlight
her dull husband bought on credit at the Kmart cannot be found
in the junk drawers or cardboard boxes or floors of closets.
There is a camera, though, a disposable: how wonderful
he should find that. She insists that it's easier to see without it,
but he's oblivious to her still. He holds the camera at arms' length
and takes a few steps between shots. "Let your eyes adjust,"
she pleads. But he's having too much fun, giggling with each click
from too many beers and in spite of missing his sitcoms. The flash peels
across her face. She hears that cricket sound as he winds the film
and can feel it in her stomach. Everything is orange and black and
everywhere she looks there is the chemical purple blotch of a flashbulb.
He laughs, "You should have seen your face."
                                                                                        And then there is After.
Shoulders back, every light in the house burns again. Her skin
another bulb, a vaseline gleam to her cheeks. Who knows,
who cares where he is. The camera-man here now knows
how to take a picture, how to coerce a smile: that scar that gleams
so white across her face.

Steven Breyak is a poet and fiction writer currently living in Japan. More of his recent works can be found in Word Riot, Tattoo Highway, Softblow and Sawbuck.