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August 15, 2014 / douglasnyback


By:  Douglas W. Nyback

Dylan believed in Cosmic Love.

His mother had never re-married.  As a kid whenever he’d ask about it, she’d tell him that the love she had for his father was cosmic.  She explained:

“Everybody knows we’re all made of stardust.  Billions and billions of years ago the Universe saw fit to explode in just a way, so certain and specific, and your Daddy and me?  The whole thing, the whole damn thing, was all just so that he and I could meet and fall in love, somewhere on this little nerve cluster of what the Universe is becoming.”

And the sicker Daddy got, she’d say:

“And this cancer?  Well it’s in him.  So it’s a part of him.  So I’ll love it too.  That cancer’s stardust, sweetheart.  It’s just your Daddy burning too bright to stay in the world.”

And Dylan would cry, but his mom would gently pull his chin up, so he’d be facing her.  Looking up, just so, with her head framed in the soft glow of the overhead light so he could have sworn his Mother was an angel.

She’d say, “So he’s gonna burn so bright he’s gonna burn through that sick body of his and fly right up there.  Out among the stars.  And don’t you worry, sweetheart.  Cause though he might be busy with all his cosmic doings, he’ll still always be watching you, always touching the same stardust that’s touching us down here.  Ok?”

And Dylan would nod.  His mother would tuck him into bed, with the covers up tight under his chin just like he liked, and for a whole sleep he’d feel loved and cherished and protected.

And his Daddy died.  Like all Daddy’s do.  And Dylan grew up, the only Cosmic Love his mother had left.

Now Dylan was part of a generation that defined itself by nothing.  Every other generation before him had some kind of great event, some monument of historical significance to define itself by, but his was a new thing, a generation left to shape itself on it’s own ideals.  It created a world so intricately linked together, that the very air around them was alive with a universe within the Universe.  Billions and billions of tiny signals blanketing all the people of the planet, a web of communication so vast and all consuming that it could be believed to be a miracle.

But of all the humans on the earth during that time, only Dylan knew what it was all for.  To all his loves, he’d say:

“The reason for all this is very simple.  It’s because the Universe is dark and scary.  We stare up into the night sky and we think it’s romantic, but really, it’s everything else, and if everything else is that big, then we are so small.  So we don’t look to the Universe anymore, we look to our own little universe.  We’re still shouting into the darkness, the only difference is that the darkness actually shouts back.”

And when his loves would vanish from his life, as they slipped through the doors and the hallways of his heart he’d say:

“But what people don’t know, is that we’re all made of stardust.”

But after so much shouting into the night sky, Dylan started to lose hope.  A man can only take his echo being swallowed by infinity for so long.  So, one day, dejected and broken, he turned his face from the sky and opened his heart to the little universe.  He scoured the world in front of him, the information provided by people, and he opened up his heart.  And one day, he found a match, out in the world, a beautiful woman named Ellie and she kissed all the parts of his face, and she tucked him in at night so the covers were under his chin just like he liked, and before he’d fall asleep, he’d look up to the Universe and he’d say, “Thank you, Universe, for Ellie.  She’s the love of my life.  I hope she dreams deep.”

But he was really just talking to the ceiling.

And there was always a part of him that was missing.  She was all there, as best as she could be, but some part of him, something that had been lost for so long was always just out of his reach.  He tried to fill it with her, but in the end he couldn’t and when she left him, he knew that he deserved it, somewhere, somehow.  For try as he might to find that part of himself, he just couldn’t.   So he kept looking down.

And then one day, after the dust had settled and the things they owned were separated he took a long walk.  He walked until his feet got sore, he walked past all the buildings and places that were stamped with the remnants of his old loves and he kept on walking.  He kept going until his shoes were worn, falling apart and his feet were raw and bleeding.

Finally, at the edge of a crystal clear lake, he stopped.

As he stared out over that utterly peaceful water, he saw something he hadn’t seen in years:  The Stars.  For reflected in the water was the Universe.  The actual one.  And tears filled his eyes and he dropped to his knees, because he was so scared and ashamed.

The Universe had been there the whole time.  And the whole time he had been living for something false, something tangible and finite.  But as his tears fell his lips parted, a smile made it’s way across his weary face and he did the most surprising thing; he laughed.  Staring down at the cosmos in the water he laughed and cried until his tears permeated the lake and glowed phosphorescent.  And there, basking in the warm glow of his own sadness, tucked tight under his chin just like he liked it, he did the most amazing thing:

He looked up.

February 5, 2014 / douglasnyback


Nobody tells this story

like romance is a simple thing,

a beast brought on with fanfare, one in six billion

but it’s not.


I’ve learned

isn’t a catalyst,

we get a lot of those


fifty in six billion

a hundred

a thousand

each time your heart skips

ordering a latte

with a side of the right pair of eyes,

entire zip codes

falling head over heels

with a polka-dot dress and a woman

who spells names wrong

on a coffee cup.

Empty connection

as varied as hair color preference

and a misplaced erection

shot off

past a toilet seat

to someone we’ve never met


“That’ll be $9.75.”



is different.

It’s the external illusion of stagnation

buried under a two year running thesis

that her eyes change color with every outfit she wears

if I could only


prove it.

Romance is how I can

trace the upturned slope of her nose

every morning

like it’s the sunrise

because for me

deep in daylight savings

buried in the darkness of winter

she is morning

and I know I will follow her with my heart

all day

like Solaris on it’s arc

until it sets again

within me

darkness prevailing or not

waking myself up

while falling asleep

by dropping

a book on my chest

to her soft, soft laughter.

It’s knowing that every breath I take

is pollution

without her conditioner

and Penhaligon’s Isis Prima

tangling with my senses

so I stop breathing air

and start

experiencing her.


Romance is the twists and changes

the dark valleys

that only light up at night

as I weave my way through

the tears she’s crying

and just how horrifically angry I get.

It’s the ice cold meeting place

between her hurt

and my rage

that cuts me through the middle

like lava meeting the ocean,

when I am

so far

past the point

of saying the wrong thing

that it will take years to see

where the chips will fall

because there is no deeper hurt

than a romantic one

no cut, shallower or longer lasting,

the smallest neglect

on par with the broadest insult

each nick poisoned

bleeding us out

until all that’s left is

the blood we offer each other,

our very souls


to keep each other up and help each other grow

independent from each other

despite the confusion

of where she ends and I begin.


Grudges hold.

Injuries scar.


This is what is unwritten

what no lyricist tells you

and there is

no road map

out of here

because you will never admit

that you can love someone so completely

because people will jump in

giving you simple solutions

to complex problems

that might make you

take an easy way out

and ruin the only thing

on this spinning Earth

that you ever gave

more than two reasonable shits about.


Because you can’t explain to someone

that it’s this person and oxygen;

the only two things

you’d drown without.


It’s not healthy.

But the symptom of life is death.


We don’t choose to fall

we choose to land and move forward.


Romance is the only choice we ever have, really.

Moving forward.




March 11, 2012 / douglasnyback



Douglas Nyback


It’s an infinity thing

how we learn

to do this


We fall

like a reflection

in a window,

harsh shadows

pulled through prisms


over dark faces,

your old selves

seconds behind.


And you look



the shadows you cast



the eyes of someone new.


I look,

it would seem

and I swear




I’ve changed


the inside of your




for me,

a world

a galaxy

a universe

ever expanding


my understanding

of the thoughts

that grow it.


We fall

how stars kiss,

catalyst and consumption both,


becoming one.



November 27, 2011 / douglasnyback

Music and Dreams

I wonder.  Who among us isn’t haunted?  I wander, often, and I’m shocked by just how much of my heart belongs to pieces of my past, to people who have taken up residence, perhaps leaving their place in my life but never in the specific ways they’ve helped shape me.

Thanks to the continued inspiration.  You know who you are.


Music and Dreams


I am standing on the shoulders of giants.


More and more


look in the mirror

and it’s a man

I see there.

He stares back at me

the way

fire burns



like it could consume me.


That man


what was,

what is

and what will be.


I wonder,


if the first love

I had


the only love I’m allowed.


In my dreams

she dances

to save the world

and I weep


in those moments

she is

My World

and when



It ends.


She is

a fine bow



along the tender thread

of my imagination

and the music she makes


will never forget.


Her hair

was the brown

of oak trees,

her eyes

were an ocean,

deep and complex

and she cried,



every tear

was morning dew

dancing on the



what dawn

does to nighttime.



I am standing on the shoulders of giants.


You took my heart so early,

my love.



November 13, 2011 / douglasnyback

Tiny People In Picture Frames

The fruits of tonight’s wandering.  Found this amazing wine bar called Swirl.  Got two poems out of it, this is the second one.


Tiny People In Picture Frames


She has a bow

in her hair


“Hey.  Look at me.”

And I do.

I’m staring at

pictures of

her silhouette,

trying to

figure out her profile

because something


the way she

grabs attention

hits me like


cat getting killed

and I feel

like she’s a bad idea

but I don’t



It’s harder now

than it was



people are tiny,

they live in

picture frames




that if I stare

at them

long enough


drive me

quite mad.


There’s something

about her,

like a

Dead Sea,

like you’d have to

walk on water,

like you’d have to

manufacture a miracle






I feel like


she found out

this poem was about her

she’d feel



in it.



November 8, 2011 / douglasnyback

Love Happens

Wrote this yesterday afternoon after a 3 hour creative meeting for a film I wrote.  Obviously, love was a theme.


Love Happens

You don’t push love.

Love happens,

like a jacket in tatters

on a day

where you






You touch someone

so intensely

that no longer do you


you’re rubbed raw

the places

where you touch

patched over

by your lover’s wounds.


You share fluids.

You say,

“Here I am.  All of me.”


You don’t push love.

Love happens.

October 30, 2011 / douglasnyback

Happy Halloween

Well.  It’s Halloween tomorrow.  Got the idea for a short story.  Here it is:


By:  Douglas W. Nyback

Creeping light reflects off the crystal chandelier making the ornate tin roof crawl.

I hear street noise somewhere, softly, so no way can where I woke up be too remote.

It doesn’t smell like a basement, the ceiling is too high.  My eyes strain, pupils widening, one glance at the half clothed Mannequin in the corner of the room kicks tears close, but I beat them back.  She’s dressed in a gray jumper, her skin bleached, her lips painted the darkest red, her hands rest casually in her pockets, the fingers slumped, losing shape and if it weren’t for the varicose veins in her calves you’d swear she’d never been alive at all.

Gravity does funny things to blood and somewhere, somehow there’s a man named The Tailor.

I close my eyes, breathing, willing my arms to relax, cut already almost to the bone, the arms of the chair made slippery from what the piano wire is doing to my wrists.

I have been taught to keep calm, to breathe, to count to ten.

Behind me a clock chimes, striking the hour hard at four, giving me a fifty-fifty on how busy the street will be when I start screaming.

The Tailor pulls you apart and I have been chasing him for over three years.

Somewhere, a room away, a light clicks.  Instantly a doorway is framed, forty watts floating across the room in jagged slivers.  My eyes turn back to the Mannequin and instantly the piano wire bites.

In the soft glow I can see the stitches climb the back of her lower legs from where the muscles were all cut out and deveined.  The skin was pulled a little too tight in the stitching in an attempt to hide the stretch marks made from the struggle.  Piano wire doesn’t have much give, but when you’re being skinned alive, you’d be surprised what your adrenal stores will allow you to do to yourself.

I hear footsteps to my left and the light plays.  I force my eyes up—memorizing each detail—past her legs to where small patches of liquid stain the pockets of her jumper.  She’s been dead for over seven days.  Those stains mean her fingernails have rotted off.

What he does is individually remove all your muscles one by one, then shrink wraps them in preservative and sews them back into your body as he goes.  This process takes weeks and is made possible by his expertise and the I.V. drip stapled into my forearm.

It took us the longest time to figure out he wasn’t using a scalpel.

I follow her arms from the pockets up.  Here and there, unless you looked closely, you’d never notice that her forearms are jagged from lost tissue, you’d almost not see the careful seam work put into where the hand marries the wrist, you’d hardly make out the bruising from where she must have fought and fought and fought, you’d almost not see how exactly four millimeters had to be cut out of the bones in her left forearm to make the seams match.  You almost don’t think about how much marrow being shaved would hurt.

You almost don’t think about it, but you do.

In situations like this, what you do is focus on the small mercies.  You think to yourself:

At least my skin won’t be literally torn apart.

I marvel, sometimes, at how intensely we can look forward to a technicality like that.

In situations like this, you tell yourself to count to ten but you only get to eight because he doesn’t us a scalpel, he uses a seam ripper.

The door creaks and the light I know is coming washes over me.

His footfalls are deft, sharp and specific.  His aftershave is sandalwood, his cologne is Tuscan Leather.

His jacket, among many things, is impeccably fit.

The door closes behind him but it’s only dark for two one thousands before the chandelier sparks to life.

He’s framed, for a moment-perfectly in the death of my night vision.  I’m aware he’s wearing a top hat.  On his hands are a pair of custom driving gloves, it’s apparent they’re leather, but it’s difficult to tell from whom.  He crouches down in front of me and he says my name.  His voice is polite and precise.

“I deeply admire the work you do.”

For a long moment he studies me and I swear to God his eyes are violet, like pulled velvet on a spool, his thoughts are unreadable and I make my living reading thoughts.

The thing about behavioral psychology is that sooner or later what they’re thinking starts to feel normal.

It makes perfect sense to me that he would walk over to the Mannequin.  I understand that it’s his yearning for a personal connection to something lost that causes his fingers to softly caress the rotting skin on her cheek.  I feel a vague sense of satisfaction at the most subtle of noises as his finger slips through her cheek and into what used to case her tongue.  I feel relief as he idly tears the lips off of her face, first the top, then the bottom, like punching a wall, like popping a zit.  He stares at her, pulling back her eyelids, exposing the rotting contents just beneath her skull.  She grins at him, anymore incapable of anything else.

“The gray matter goes first.”

In situations like this, what you do is think of the small mercies.  You think to yourself:

Pretty soon he’ll be doing that to me.

He asks, to no one in particular:

“They never last very long, do they?”

There’s always a purpose to dialogue like this, but as he leans into her, burying his face in the dead remnants of her hair, I start to lose my mind just enough to forget that I’m supposed to be looking.  He breathes deep and embraces her, wrapping his left arm tenderly around her impossibly slim waist.  His right hand finds the back of her neck and he holds her like that for a long time, his pelvis pressing into hers.  Finally, reverently, he lets her go.  Some unseen support gives way and her shoulders slump forward, sickeningly pushing her wrists deeper into her pockets.  Her head falls and for a moment he holds it up with a single finger, turning to me.

“Perfect fleets.”

He lets her head drop and gravity’s tender malice causes her spine to give way at the base of the neck.  The stitches keeping her head on her shoulders stretch and tear just enough to spin her eyeless, lipless grin on me.

Hanging there, half attached to her body, I see her brain is nothing more than maggots, moving relentlessly but no longer in the way it used to.  One by one, they drop to the floor.

I think:

Penny for your thoughts?

He says:

“Something funny?”

So, I know I must be smiling.

He takes a step closer to me and his hand dips into his pocket.

It’s the simplest thing, a seam ripper.  It’s barely anything and it’s the smallest gesture as he removes it from his jacket.

I hear the street noise and I know we’re not together in the AM.

I think:

They’ll hear me scream.  They have to.

And he knows:

“They’ll hear.  They’ve heard all the rest.”

In situations like this, what you do is think of the small mercies.  You think to yourself:

At least I’m not alone.

It’s funny, how that definition has changed:  Alone.

The Tailor kneels in front of me.  He says:

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”

As he brings the seam ripper to the base of my foot, I think:

Nothing really cuts.  It just presses specifically.

The seam ripper pierces the soft skin at the base of my ankle; the penetration is nothing, barely a pinprick.

He looks up and me, his lips cracking into the smallest of smiles.  His weight shifts lower and I feel the point of the ripper angle up.  It finds bone.

He says:

“It’s ok.  You can scream.”

The ripper begins its long journey up my shin and I do.

In situations like this, what you do is think of the small mercies.  You think to yourself:

Maybe I’ll make a nice pair of leggings.


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