Instead of crying on your shoulder I cry on the internet. Instead of crying I make allusions to crying by cherry picking the subjects. Instead of crying on his shoulder I build a fountain of black amethyst in an artificial square. Instead of crying I ring the bells of a bottomless road. Instead of crying I listen to Roy Orbison’s “Crying” because the way he waterfall-sings “crying” feels like a worn leather booth that wouldn’t refuse me service. Instead of crying I understand what I’m sacrificing for someone who’s long gone. Instead of crying I think of lurid romantic scenarios where I’m not crying and you’re the one being insufferable when you think about me. Instead of crying I listen to “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka and I recognize how some songs are never about deep emotional connections with special people but for getting in the pants of willowy virgins. Instead of crying I put on “Live Evil” by Miles Davis to smudge the room of 1950s white nonsense. Instead of crying Miles’s trumpet screams like the last free lion dying alone in the wilderness. Can I lay my head on your shoulder and cry?





Page excerpt from the chapbook, I Hate Telling You How I Really FeelNikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, Poetry, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Houses (Horseless Press 2015)  and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017) as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore-based book arts group Container, a project acquired by Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee. Her third collection, Waterbaby, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2021.


“Crying” was originally published in TLR: Babel Fish