The Ten Thousand Meanings of The Written Form

Photo by  Nattu Adnan  on  Unsplash    [Image Description: an aerial photograph of crisp blue waves washing upon a white sand shore]

Photo by Nattu Adnan on Unsplash

[Image Description: an aerial photograph of crisp blue waves washing upon a white sand shore]

There’s an uncomfortable truth

all would-be artists should remember:

art is as useless as it is magnificent,

ugly and real and hurting like a white flame

- two faces of the same god

one that talks in riddles and lives blindfolded.


You can’t have one and the other

the way you can’t plunge twice in the same water

or gaze at stars in the sunlight

- but you can love them with single-minded devotion.


The path to both is open

- narrow and dimly lit, forked at its end -

if you’re ruthless enough to pursue it

and find it lies at the doors of deception

without ever crossing over,

burning your soft hands on the altar of ten thousand meanings.


For the ones who recoil, an elusive ego awaits

in the dark alley they avoid visiting,

the rest ennui or failure.


Wearing all masks humans can paint on their faces

swinging between pretended feelings and outspoken lies

faint-hearted artists present the same empty stare

to lovers in flesh and amis de plume

to the beholders’ admiring eyes

to the high powers they play jester for

- quivering lips trembling with fear

incapable to bear the truth they should uphold.


I am the pencil sharpened by angry tears

I am the ivory scroll left unopened

the verses you haven’t written

the performance you have missed

the song your voice couldn’t sing

the reality that scared you blind.

You’ll meet me again and again

stumbling over a pathway of nails and stones

in the long journey called deliverance.

Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from Scotland, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Find her recent & forthcoming work in Aurealis, The Grievous Angel, New Myths, and others. Finalist in The Canopus 100 Year Starship Awards 2016-2017. Find her online at and on Twitter @SPBianchini