Magical Realist Cafe

Chichen Itza

we slipped through a chain-link fence

as the bus sped off up a tunnel of night

one floodlight spliced the dark

a dog barked sharp

there was no going back

we crossed into woods beyond


startled awake, or was it a dream

tap tapping rain, tropical sweat

hunted prey on the ground

the dog, peering down

the dog,

the dog.

no questions asked

leading us astray

over damp silent grass

on invisible string we followed the dog

to a looming ladder of stone

into a void of sky

at the top the dog disappeared

we were held captive



spreadeagled before dawn

until dark drained away like blood dried cold

a symphonic mist rose

to purify the day


hours later, concealed in the trees

we woke again

emerging as tourists,

demigods in disguise


Diana Milia, 2023

I drifted into Kate Zambreno’s writing by way of a forward she wrote for The Easy Life by Marguerite Duras, a sumptuously poetic novel about trauma and its sequalae of dissociation, depersonalization, and fragmentation of time. Zambreno’s novel Drifts details a writer’s (herself) procrastination in completing a novel for a publishing deadline.  Her writer’s block is understandable as she has assigned herself the audacious task of inventing a style that has never been done.  This involves writing “fragments”, i.e.scribblings on drifts of sticky notes.  The result is a series of brief chapters strung together to form a narrative in the genre of autobiographical fiction.  I enjoyed her incisive observations, especially a darkly funny description of teaching as an adjunct instructor, and asides about Rainer Maria Rilke’s struggles with productivity.  For me, the symbolism of pregnancy and birthing a novel was a little too obvious, and as a novel didn’t quite escape the self-conscious gaze of the author herself enough to soar as a literary form on its own wings.  Still, an entertaining read.  And if you haven’t read Margeurite Duras, aim to make her a part of your life experience.  

She was so tiny and immaculate.  She walked on your shoulders, on your back, on your buttocks and your thighs.  Afterward she did extra.  And you paid extra.  I treated her very nicely you said.  I wished she would take off her socks and walk on my balls until they hurt you said.  And tweak my nipples with her toes.  She was so tiny and you wanted to hug her and take off her clothes, too.  You would use a condom and then you would take her to a fancy restaurant, the same one you took me with a view of the city.  You would ask her earnestly about herself.  You wanted her to know that you loved her.  You wanted her to share the privilege, too.


no sex phone sex or excess

you slip back and forth a threshold

i cannot cross

i commune with projections

and fantasies of corruption

my reality shifts

between jello and concrete

i cannot feel you

except when we touch

safely spooned

the language our bodies know

when chimeras get our tongues


She would turn the key in the lock to her fourth floor apartment.  She would step out of her shoes.  She would draw close the curtains on the lights of the street.  She would reheat the pizza left on a porcelain plate on the kitchen table.  She would fill the coffee maker for the next morning.  She would tiptoe past the room where her mother-in-law was sleeping.  She would pick up her child and smell the dampness of sleeping breath.  She would take off her socks.  She would take off her clothes.  She would thankfully slide between cotton sheets into the warmth of her husband’s encircling arms.  They would whisper and secretly laugh at a private joke.


We would strain to touch one another across the distance of a phone line.


You urged me. 

It was an absurdity.  Had he seen you leave the cafe last night with the girl? Swarthy in white gauze with bare feet and unshaved armpits, the kind of girl that makes you swoon. She was wearing the delicate chain you secured to her ankle.  Was I being played? That first day I noticed his faded corduroys, the color of waves and seaweed. He sat alone at the far edge of the terrace sipping coffee, a newcomer with an aura of having been on this island forever.  We speculated.  I thought he might be returning after a long time, perhaps a widower searching for directions in the past.  You pipe-dreamed that he owned a yacht, that he would invite us aboard for a week of island hopping. You, the positivist, the one most likely to make things real tended to be the better guesser.  People wanted to be near you, as did I.

He asked about you.  He took me below to the cabin and handed me a shimmering dress.  Put it on.  A small table on the deck was set with a fine linen cloth, its edges lifting in a subtle breeze.  His silhouette against the silver sea lit a candle.  I want to see you.  My figure in sheer silk exposed by slanting fire from the setting sun.  We ate buttered sole.  We sipped cognac.  His lips were slender and taut and the fine lines at the corner of his eyes grew misty with tenderness.  I submitted each detail to memory. 


the silver sea

you tell me

you’re falling in love

it might mean

i’m not for you

in that way

you could do so much better

i’ve always known

i still love you and what we are

i give you a way

an eternal horizon


The next afternoon while we fucked you recounted the dampness, the odors, the slime, the crevices and the screams of the earth.  Later I described to you the colors of the sun refracted in crystalline glass. 

You were the same person.


Vermut Ataman/Passage du Commerce

bitter honey on the rocks

a fire in my place

Balthus pulls back the curtain

he was fourteen and i was ten

(if only i could stay this age forever)

adrift, on a sea of ice in suburbia

what the hell, Siberia

slipping into virtual passages

virginal commerce, shrouded side doors

a stage, in development

a drama, a dream, perhaps

a Freudian interpretation,

child’s play, a simulacrum, or a (mere)


Pattern Recognition

Scratched by sunset claws

her face dissolves in winter clay

Scales drop desiccated lashes

Cliffs threadbare, roots exposed to sky

Sun-withered, kelp drooping on old logs

No child cartwheels across that expanse

Different gulls lean against the wind

On the same trajectory

where my mother’s ashes swept away

I slowly fade in her wake


Diana Milia, 2022


Earl Grey’s Jewels

Fetish languages

Tangled in lines of leaden blue

Secretly suspended in ice cube rooms

Enthralled in lures and holding firm

What do you call it, say its name

Write it in skin

Let it sink in

Upside down falling inside

If I let go, maybe

I can touch the bottom with my toes


Diana Milia, 2021



Subdued Bliss

Writhing mass in the grass

Sinister sirens

Silvery silken threads coiled in a lie

It wasn’t what you wanted to say, but

it can wait

Lie in wait

Unwinding tension

Passion flowers, a visiting bumblebee

Soft sensation spreads and

It doesn’t hurt any more

to say yes, and no more


Diana Milia, 2020