Vermont Arts Council

Beniamino Nardin, 2021 Original Poetry Winner

That Which Darkens

fever dream

high as a skyborn kite and
shiny like a brand-new rolls royce
sitting in the front passenger seat
with the windows down and sunglasses,
aviator, perched on my nose, music
blaring from the speakers, your fore-
arm resting on the doorframe, a cigarette flicked out onto the inter-
state, its flare smothered by the car
behind us. your jaw flexes as you
chew on liquorice sticks, taking
the corners hot without the brakes,
shifting to rest a hand on my thigh.
all we are is a fever dream, a burning
desire and a summer flame, flittering
hotter than the sun itself, but hold
me now as you pull into the motel
and pour yourself a whisky and take a
shower with your diamond earring on,
while i contemplate whether i should join you,
then flicking through the news stations,
glitzy anchors adjusting their ties,
you smoke through a few more chains,
blotting out the gleam in the ashtray on
the bedside table where i watch the minutes
click by at night, the hours alerting
the arrival of july, your flight back home,
the end of this beginning, no more fantasies
left in my brittle imagination.


a precocious pathological liar
since the day you were born peering
out at the world from those agate marble
eyes, scheming some malicious stratagem
to bring down flame and fury on those
around you. risen fast like a timelapsed
fern unfurling, spreading your arms to
seep in the sun, absorbing the gripes of
the worthless to build your throne. you
whispered beneath the marquee in the
wait to the friday matinee that you’d filch
some buttered popcorn for me, and I laughed
while you counted out our pooled money.
how did I not see you pickpocket the woman
in front of us? when did your hands move, quicker
than sin, speed of light? on the way home you
stopped at a food truck and handed me a waft of
cotton candy to stain my teeth, and you stooped
down to watch an inchworm squabble past the
sidewalk, and I felt your ingenuousness, but how
blind could I be? how insensitive, not to feel your
ambience of hunger and thrill at every crafted
mendacity in your mental library you perused
day and night. a lie is never good, even when
white as milk, and you told untruths like pouring
sugar in coffee, stirring with tongue stuck to the
roof of your mouth. the sting of truth will, in time,
abate, but the joyless vacuum of untruth remains
like a stamp on a long-opened, crusted, yellowed
envelope. the graduation ceremony where you
plagiarized your speech, off of mine, and I improvised
there on the podium while my heartbeat swung from
a cliffside. you caught me at the buffet with a kiss as if
nothing had gone wrong. in years I’d known you I
never expected you to turn the knife towards me.
when I cooked in the kitchen and you said you were
leaving to meet friends, but I followed you and I saw
the flash of green in your hand and your fuchsia
cheeks and the syringe in your pocket. in months
I saw the bruises no matter how hard you tried to
cover them up. even then you lied to me, over and
over, as if you were addicted to numerous things.
truth became insensible and you couldn’t pick apart
reality from fiction. still, with the chances you gave me,
I never left. my faith is beaten to dust and the embers are
dying, but by dusk when your façade breaks from exhaustion
and you shudder from tears, I am there to hold you close and
brush your hair, and to feel your absence when morning arrives.


I bled for you a thousand times and here
you are on my doorstep wearing a cowhide
belt and your chipped smile asking me for
one more night. You step into my home,
not my arms, and the smell of smoke lingers
as you enter. You pour the rum in a diamond
flute and you tell me of news I don’t care to hear,
and then you slither under my sheets and attach
yourself to my body and leech the resistance from
my limbs. Your breath against my ear is feral as
you then, as morning comes, slink away leaving
no trace. I spend a week pining in heartless moments
wondering where you’ve gone and why you haven’t
called, and then as though you’ve read my mind you
ring and slur your words and I find you fetal in an
alley, silent as I drive you home, I sit you in the bath
and bleach the stench from your skin, humming to
you like the mother you never had, and then you take
me to bed and your lips brush the loneliness away as
night darkens your eyes into a dyad of scintillating
flame that I let devour me.


Smashed against the edge
Glass spattering throughout
Vaporizing vision,
A sudden whiteout, then
Hearing rings the chassis rocks
Oil drips and scrambles aflame,
Blood rolls down cheeks caustic tears
Crawling over pebbles and
The shards of a
broken dream

lost in yesterday

Do you remember how we met?
at an arrow-speed light-bomb explosion
of a party where the music sounded like glaciers
ripping to pieces, the house shaking at the seams,
you circled the mansion with bubbles on your lips
and traded whispers for plastic cups, and you passed me,
hood tightened over my head, and I spoke out and said,
”˜You’re a haughty hottie,’ to which you grinned, saying,
”˜Ah, so doubly hot, then?’ I laughed, do you recall?
I can picture it as clearly as I can see your pasty, ash-gray
skin and your hands crossed over your chest now, with calla
lilies lapping at your ears and a golden signet ring at the base
of your little finger. Even now I am lost in yesterday, in the slam of the
door and your palms grasping my shoulders, as we murmured
our names like secrets, then taken to surreptitious moments
and furtive movements, desperate love, afraid of those outside
the window, even then your lips were as mine as ever. Can you
see it, the days we strolled along the garden paths of the town,
our fingers touching the barest trace of an instant, the vestiges
of the night before hanging spiritual between us? I can see you
laughing at a joke I cracked, spinning me around with a finger
in my beltloop, shouting out loud to the lowering sun that love
like ours is superimposed over the Universe, that our story
deserved more than anything, that we were destined for an
era of satisfaction. Do you remember those chalky-aired
afternoons where I sat on the edges watching you perspire,
shivering as you shed me a covert grin while you pulled the
helmet from your crown of damp strands. In solitude, you
whisked me into your arms when no one was watching, and
I didn’t care if we’d never reach the spotlight as long as you’d
cling to me this way. The present I gave you, a poem I wrote
that you drank in with your eyes while I recited it, and your
callused hands plucking a tune on your father’s guitar, hidden
in your room tangled in your grandmother’s vintage quilt,
free of guilt, your florid wine-colored curtains drawn to
propose freedom, and I thought those moments would last
forever. A call at midnight, a breaking voice, a sea of tears, and
I’d never imagined the next time I would see you would be
like this, the slashes from breaking glass powdered smooth,
with the idling feeling of your lasting lips pressed to mine,
my secret forevermore, our love buried in hardened clay and
my heart a landslide of memory, of wondering if I had
told you to stay with me in that room and never in a
million years leave we would still have a chance to evade
the cessation of this perpetual love

Beniamino Nardin

Gold Key, 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards


admin-place March 18, 2021