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Better than Fiction! (creative non fiction)

Footnote to a Poem

by Taylor Gaede


I cut words from a poem. Took away the words I meant but could not give. These open hands could not bear the weight of his, Why would you write this?, and a sideswipe glare before he could even reach the end of the page. But when he finished—and he finished, his roving eyes finally stopping and lifting—he asked, “Why did you take things out?”


“How do you know if I did?”


“I can see the holes.” He gave me back the poem. “There’s something you want to say.”


There are words that do not belong to the greater whole. But, like energy, words cannot be destroyed. Although they are not written in the finished sentence, they once were. They leave behind phantom impressions, like a pen pressed too hard to a notepad, leaving remnants on future pages.


Putting the words back into the poem, I did not have to look at an original copy. The words still rambled in unspooled lines in my brain, still curled around the nerves in my fingers, which were prepared to type them again and again and again. When he reread the poem—once, then twice, eyes snagging at the places where words had been invisible until I illuminated them—he held the poem and smiled in a subtle, soft, private way.

“It’s good.”


I waited. “And?”


“And?” He shrugged. “I don’t know what you want me to say. What do you say to someone who wrote a poem for you—about you?”


“I don’t know. No one’s written me anything.”


A pause. A swarm of unspoken words fluttered between us—words I wish I could catch on paper, like butterflies in a net. Finally, he said, “I can’t write. I don’t write. But if I did, I would write you a poem.”

Taylor Gaede is a freelance writer currently living in South Florida. She has been previously published in Living Waters Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Freshwater Literary Journal, and The Stray Branch.

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