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Papercuts: A love letter

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FEBRUARY 26, 2023

dearly beloved, 

you’d tell me that my writing is a gift,
that my words are a present I’m lucky to have, 
but why do my fingers slice again and again 
on the wrapping paper each time?
constantly cutting myself open 
     – when it comes to you, why can’t I write about 
         rose bouquets and apple tea   
     instead all I’m left with 
          are paper cuts 
          and my bloodied fingers 

dearly beloved, 

I realize I’ll never stargaze again – 

     that night when my teeth chattered
     you warmed me up with your jacket 
     and your false promises you weren’t cold 

     because you never used papercut words 
     when I saw your clean hands I only saw a lack of love

          I was so naive, 
          made so many mistakes

dearly beloved, 

I don’t know anyone else who would let me walk them home —
and then turn back around to walk me home 
     –  just for a few extra minutes with me 

     when I reread our love notes written on the cafe’s glassine paper 
     my hands became such a pretty canvas of scarlet 
     from all the papercut memories we left behind

dearly beloved, 

since I last saw you, 
I learned how to drive and swim and walk much faster 

     because you once wrote that you liked that I walked slowly 
     since it meant more time to walk together

     – my stupid brain decided to walk everywhere quickly, 
     just to prove to myself I don’t care about you anymore 

in the beginning I used to write down the things I wanted to share with you: 
names of books, good music, things about me you had never uncovered, 
questions I couldn’t push out of my head, classes I’d taken that I thought you’d like

     but old friends can become strangers after all  

          every now and then around 3 am, I write the most beautiful words about you 
          and every time, I’m still surprised when I wake up and you’re never here
     instead all I’m left with 
               are remnants

     and my fingers once again drenched
     in hues of love & violence

dearly beloved, 

you’d tell me that my words are a gift
but know that yours are too – 

     the last letter you wrote me 
     took up so many pages 
     and it sits so neatly paperclipped in the back of my desk 

          it’s all I have left to remember you by

          reading your goodbye left so many papercuts
          that I still bleed today 

dearly beloved, 

     I have nothing more of yours to return
          I don’t have a lost umbrella or a borrowed book or even a single photograph
          I have no excuses to want to see you 
               and promised myself to make sure I never do 
               all possibilities of reconciliation 

dearly beloved, 

you’d tell me there is great beauty in sadness
that heartbreak gives rise to the greatest art 

     but I don’t really care for art

and I’d give anything to write a happy poem 
     but I know if I ever did, 
     it could never be about you 

so my beloved, 

I sit here with my words – my so-called presents  
     and I slice my fingers on the wrapping paper each time 
          cutting myself open 
          refusing to let go – 

a thousand papercuts 
     consisting of my words 
     composed only 
     of my thoughts of




 my once dearly beloved, 

1539 days ago I got my first papercut –
but tonight as I write 
     – my apple tea steeps and soon I’ll bandage my bloodsoaked fingers 
I know now to no longer wait for you to heal the cuts you left 

     I can do that myself.

Contact Nishat Sheikh at 


FEBRUARY 26, 2023