The Hidden Letter, a painting by Kay Sage

    —for Nadia Wolnisty

Once I painted a painting oddly similar to this one. It was a bodily form, but really it was the letter i, because I was afraid to be myself in those old days. At least afraid to be my vulnerable self, however unafraid I was to be my raging self. This fellow “Spike” was convinced we were soul mates. I was not. We were in his studio apartment, the shower was on very hot because that was how he heated his room. There was steam but it was all still cold. You could see your breath and the steam. He was very pushy. I said: if you can tell me what this painting is really about, I’ll agree with you that we are soul mates. 

Of course, he could not. I couldn’t really either, beyond this knowing of a first “i”. He struggled and grasped and kept insisting on another guess. We were on his bed which was a futon mattress on the floor. I kept standing up to leave and he kept pulling me back to the bed. I looked him in the eyes. I was silent. His face transformed. An iron plate appeared over his mouth. I remember there were rivets which closed his lips. He emanated the worst lime green sludge. 

I felt sorry for him and left forever. Sometimes I see him walking alone on the streets around Gillham Park. Sometimes I’m walking alone, too.

Jeanette Powers is a non-binary artist and working class anarchist who also swims rivers and pets wild snakes. Their poetry can be found in lots of the usual spaces, like Thimble Lit Mag, Chiron Review, The Wild Word and other print and electronic poetry magazines. They have a number of books, but are currently beginning a year long 2020 US tour for their new poetry book, Dandylion Riot, and their first novel, Victimless Crime. Find out more at or @dandylionriot