A Murderer Takes a Stroll on the Black Sand Beach

Flash fiction by Gessy Alvarez

A child runs. Charging forward. Laughing, holding a red ball, running as if she’s committed a theft. Pigeons fly out of her way, short legs in motion, tips of toes touching pavement. Strangers taking a stroll along the waterfront give way. She runs straight towards me, and I want to bend down and scoop her up. Thank her for showing me pure joy. A joy where nothing else matters but the present pleasure like the first time you saw the ocean or tasted an ice cream cone. Pleasure uninterrupted by thoughts and fears. I no longer feel this unadulterated joy. I fear something will be taken from me.


fragments in waiting by Gessy Alvarez

The orchids fell off the stem after hanging on for three months.

Violet petals browned and shriveled leaving two tall stems bereft.

Succulent leaves lay open at the base, waiting or rejoicing.

Beaded water absorbed by the green arms.

Day after day the leaves, the stems luxuriate in sun.

Sitting atop the radiator cover, steam heat 

providing the tropical warmth, giving life.

A stub growing a slow centimeter at a time.

A year, six months, a long stem sprouts perpendicular.

Too small and spiritless until it blows up to violet embryos.

Until a new orchid flaps open, its center like the face of 

an insect that will never move its stare from the center of your universe.


A Poem by Gessy Alvarez

I birthed no humans
I faked my virtue

I feared the world
I kissed forked tongues

I killed honey bees
I hid cigarette burns

I held back screams
I cried for nothing

I craved the respect
I licked the grass

Audio is available here.

About the photo: From the exhibit “Guillermo Del Toro: Crafting Pinocchio” at the Museum of Modern Art. March 2022. Photo by Gessy Alvarez.

Mid-Life February

A Prose Poem by Gessy Alvarez

The rain cools the unseasonably hot February day. A once divine youth faces a mid-life spectacle of indecisions. Isolation that once felt like a blessing smothers the spectral fire of yearning. Strangers want you to fulfill your promise. Your desires drop twenty degrees – a frost follows. The pure will to lock the streets in black ice fails. No winter follows this swampy February glare and unidentified flying objects – missiles crashing on downy mountaintops. We stand, flies buzzing over our heads fifteen thousand feet from the sea. On our descent, cradled inside the gentle sway of a 110-year-old train, a marathoner races downhill – barefoot, heels embedded with stars. As the skylark February dies in a summery fire.

Audio available: https://gessyalvarez.substack.com/p/mid-life-february

Photo credit: Chad Fish / Associated Press.

Leatherdale, 4/22/22

Found Poetry

“I lived in leather.”
leather shirts / intrigue
leather pants / unsettled
leather jackets / inspired rumors
formalist beauty / the punk scene
mosh pits / gay discos
contact sheets / postcard lovers
character-study / conviviality
“trash” / “sanctuary”
Mudd Club / shape-shifters 
enigmatic grin / half-finished cigarette
anthropological patina / queer Babylon 
Adivasi tribes / cultural extinction
the rich bohemian world / the dirt pits 
the marginal / dignity 
the best / “the rest…
…dangerously bad.”

Source: Perez, Adam Smith (2022). “The Punk Portraitist of New York’s Underground.” Aperture magazine.

Photo Credit: Marcus Leatherdale. Photo from article in Hello Mr., Issue 6, April 4, 2016 .

Substack Link

On A Summer Day


Sharing this beach with many humans

every single one thinking living playing sinking 

levitating under the sun

I am confronted by my ordinary existentialism 

by the surreal awareness of a solitary mind

humming to an idiosyncratic ringing 

as the waves wash over the pain

the triumphs 

stealing my sight my smell my sound

back to the sea

Photo Credit: Gessy Alvarez, Provincetown.

Substack Link

One Brave Queen

Flash Fiction

He ran one pink hand over his coarse, red beard and tugged. The steam from shirtless men and glistening women created a fine mist around his twirling, rotund body and fogged up his black horn-rimmed glasses. A few feet away, I danced in place, closing my eyes and spinning once, twice. Joaquin, my dance partner, kissed a tall guy. I didn’t know what time it was or when I last felt this good and sweaty. Someone licked the side of my face, tried to pull me towards them, but I pulled away laughing. I felt hands caressing the curvy small of my back, hovering over my butt. I kept my eyes shut as I grooved to the bass beat. When I finally opened my eyes, Red Beard jumped up on the stage. He twirled and gyrated to a blood thrumming drum beat. Two women joined him. They danced behind him like back-up singers, bodies swaying in choir-like synchronicity, their meaningful focus on Red Beard and his graceful potbelly jiggling in harmony with the red and silver flashes of light, conjuring the spirits that kept everyone moving, laughing, and embracing in the dark, cavernous space. Slick bodies rubbing harder against me. Glowing faces turned up. I didn’t know where I was or who I had become. I pushed my way to the enormous unisex bathroom with its long corridor of mirrored walls, ten sinks on one side, tall gilded bodies leaning forward attempting to balance on 7-inch heels, applying lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, and one brave Queen gluing caterpillar eyelashes on, and a sweet, cherubic middle-aged man holding her other set of eyelashes in his hand. I pushed door after door until one gave. And as collapsed on the toilet, I pulled my phone out of my bra. The face of it lit up with an incoming call and my finger hovered over his name.

An earlier version of this flash titled “Therapy” was published in APT (Aug 2016).

Photo Credit: Jenny Holzer, Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise from the series Truisms T-shirts,1980-worn by Lady Pink © 1983 Lisa Kahane, NYC.

Substack Link

A Good Mother

Flash Fiction

A good mother shows no weakness.

When you left, a guiltless, cowering creature was born. Not one trace of my immigrant misery stained your new skin.

I heard you married a handyman and moved to Yonkers.

The pawnbroker gave me a Benjamin for the gold earrings I never gave you.

Substack Link

The Whitney Museum, 1997

Ekphrastic Poem

for Jay Defeo

If you have formed a Circle go into it, go into it yourself and see how you would do.
– William Blake

In a rented studio on Fillmore Street
she worked on her obsession
colossal circles
like the ones she used to draw as a child
symmetrical radiating facets in white
hues of reds and browns
against a black background
paint piling
multi-dimensional transformation
a sculpture rising from a flat plane
she worked
in a white lab coat and
cotton gloves
chipping away the dried crusty oil paint
sipping brandy
smoking Gauloise cigarettes
watching a rock strata
emerge from the endless depth of 
her circle.

About “The Rose” from https://whitney.org/collection/works/10075:

“First exhibited in 1969, The Rose was taken to the San Francisco Art Institute, where it was covered with plaster for support and protection, and finally stored behind the wall of a conference room. Legend grew about the painting, but it remained sealed until 1995, when Whitney curator Lisa Phillips had it excavated and restored by a team of conservators, who created a backing strong enough to support the heavy paint.”

Photo Credit: Jay DeFeo working on The Rose, 1958–66 (known at that time as The White Rose), San Francisco, 1960–61.

Substack Link