Joseph Schreiber: And I Will Tell You Something

You said: I’m still here. I just don’t know what to say. But two weeks later, you were gone. And now I sit, words turned stale upon the page. Seems I’ve been here for months, rending sentences into syllables. Senseless. Torn and patched in vain.

I’m still here and you’re still gone.

You said: I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to live. But we didn’t want to hear, for fear your fear would unmask our own. We left you to your silent pain—let it erode the edges of your reserves, like waves, ceaseless, beating the shore—bruising, breaking your brash, butch swagger. Leaving fragments and splinters of you.

Bewildered, bipolar & blue.

When I learned you’d finally hailed that nocturnal tribe, I knew it and yet I didn’t want to know. You’d been pressing on my thoughts, another ghost in a summer of ghosts, an empty night in a summer of empty nights. I reached out just before I heard the news. Six days too late.

By then you were free, returned to dust.

And I had lost a friend. The best. In your memory I vowed to listen, gather sounds, sculpt a monument of notes and echoes. Until I realized what I hold most dear is silence—the quiet ease with which we, two strangers from across the globe, could simply be together, evening on evening, watching the sun burst in glory above the sour veld.

And I will tell you something.

I love you. I miss you. Dear sister, I salvaged these words for you—stones thrown, smashed shells upon the sand, so you could sit once more at dawn’s eternal distance, scrape tattered flesh from fragile skeletons washed up on the shore. Sea-ravaged bare bones battle-scarred like you.

Beautiful, bent & blue.


— For Ulla Kelly (1970-2016)


Photos by Joseph Schreiber