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Mikayla Schutte

If self-destruction is an art

by Mikayla Schutte

this world has been
suffocating to me, i’ve
tried to carve my way out, my
flesh, my proof, my artist hands
have outlived their use, and i’m
left with a half-painted
canvas, a commission never
paid for in full, abandoned in
favor of another
ill-fated muse, i don’t know

who decides who will keep
their genius and lose
their life, or who will forfeit
their hands, the way that i
did mine, trade them
in for a few extra years, cautious
voices and paper-white walls offer
safe-keeping, a jar to
keep my hands in until the
bleeding has stopped, when i
can stitch them back on
without my fingers
curling with the urge to
leave half-moons in my
palm, sometimes i forget

what it was like to
paint, but when i reattached
my hands, my arms became
hallways, my legs an
open gallery, covered in
dusty sheets, only ripped
away in my own room, when
skin and glass stare back at
each other, and i am
reminded of the art i left, the
talent i lacked, the passion poured
into a bottle and locked in the
medicine cabinet, leaving me to
contemplate the inspiration that
leaked from under the door, only
opening it up and emptying it
into the sink after years of
I don’t want to be an artist.

The Sculptor

waves crashing against cliffs
unfinished stone
and a shifting, mercurial sculptor

chipping away

with dreams of
Marble Garden Statues
crowned with 
and bathed in 
a stone Aphrodite
soft and smooth and smiling at nothing at all

the chalky bitterness of a diet pill shoved down my throat

the sobs and heaves that dripped sorrowfully into the toilet

the curl of your lips
at the rumbling of my hollow stomach

                                        you didn’t know
that brittle rock could break
and desperate hands dig graves,        
                  not gardens
so you can drown in your 
ocean of intentions
or you can look up at what you have wrought:

a withered stone angel
staring down at an empty plot

Bury me in the backyard

the sun draws shapes in the grass, burning
the blades the shadows don’t reach, and i 
find myself scorched among them, the trees 
above me look oddly like veins, tans and browns
weaving through blue, i have the urge to
cut them down, or at least to trim the
limbs that pierce the edges of my 
vision, but i think that urge is
human—not poetic—because
when i close my eyes and open 
them again, i see the trees as a
poet, and i reach my arms towards the
sun, my fingers becoming branches, my
veins bleeding into the sky, i have the
urge to pluck one of my ribs from my 
side and plant it beside me, so by the
time the dirt sucks the breath from my
lungs, i’ll have joined them, my
fingers intertwined with theirs, my limbs
obscuring the view of the next lonely
soul to lay down in the grass and
look up at the sky


Mikayla Schutte is a Cincinnati-based poet. She is an undergraduate student at Northern Kentucky University, studying Creative Writing. She was named a topical winner for Live Poet’s Society’s High School Poetry Contest in 2019 and her work has appeared in National Poetry Quarterly and Hole in the Head Review.