All Stories, General Fiction

True by Des Kelly


I wrote poetry for an illiterate. She was pretty. We made bad love in a goodly way. She wanted to live in a doll’s house near nesting swans. Furiously describing anxiety, panic attacks. I saw her through the night, but days went badly. Trauma for effect; the actress at her art. Drinking water from zippy bottles, dropped out the window when used up. The landlord never understood.

“You creeps gotta get out.”

I grew up juggling dates, facts, quotations, lines of poetry. All of them useless when confronted with an illiterate wielding a knife. Even the war films I’d watched were of no use.

“Knock her cold. A sock to the jaw.”

I took her into my arms. She stabbed me twice. Once through the heart via love’s torment. And again in the groin. Lust’s deep and penetrating disappointment.

Sex didn’t do it for her.

“What does?”

“A vibrator in the key of C.”

I couldn’t compete.


She sat on the draining board, long legs; a sexual animal. Don’t look in the eyes. The eyes consume the soul. Jaws snapping down on every flying insect.

“I can’t keep you. They’ll take you back.”

“Prize exhibit. Prize idiot.” She responded.

“Rare commodity.”

She can’t sleep, coming off drugs; the long wind down. Staring out the window, an illiterate conversation running through her head.

“What is the power of thought?” She asked.

“Nothing. Everything.”

“I’m like a womb, inside out. Cursed.”

She floated; halfway between worlds. I thought about tying a balloon to her tail, and leading her along the street.

She burst into tears. “Cruel. You’re no poet. A poet is true.”

When the police came, they strapped her taut and bloody; the fight gone out of her. Tearful eyes; mascara trails.


The trees remained in leaf. It didn’t rain, even when the earth cried out for saturation. The pretty illiterate detained in a cage, set at the centre of a stark white room. The gates of the Victorian sanatorium wrought from crazy patterns drawn by those who came before.

“She wants to eat the visitors.” A trick cyclist was able to demonstrate, as if no one had seen a cannibal before.

I fed her love; she spat it out. I read her poetry and she fell asleep. Dressed in a paper sack, with the name of the sanatorium printed on the back, she did a turn for monkey nuts.

“Such a pity. Such a pretty girl.” The trick cyclist was volatile in defence of the least important principle.

“Everyone is staring.” She complained. “I feel like an exhibit in a zoo.”

I folded her into a pocket of my tall overcoat, and smuggled her home.

She lived in a tree house with no ladder up or down. No visitors. No knives or forks. She survived on flies, mosquitoes, instinct.


I burned poetry never read, and wrote instead things she never said. There was no difference. Lies of course to protect memory. Quite insane, she’ll never find a way out without a guide.

I used to depend on two things that were important once.

One was love; the other lust. How quickly they die. How quickly shape themselves into emblems of alternative energy.

I sit upon the island that constitutes a man’s soul, looking out across the water world. I see others staring. No one has the power to communicate. We are mute; indefensible.

The illiterate girl swings from limb to limb. I ought to call her Jane; her name is Katy. She doesn’t believe she has value and I fail to convince, while the convictions of others carry a greater weight.

“How do I survive on my own?”

“Become your own person.”

Formula speak; I am not true. What I emit is lie after lie. An illusion of meaning until meaning becomes delusion. Perhaps we are all a little deluded?

I used to write poetry, which once written could be deleted, or thrown away. It’s true. As far as truth is ever measurable in fact.

The illiterate came down from the tree house of her own volition, wandered out into the wider world, to be swallowed. She was eaten whole. There are few traces. I no longer look for her.


Some stories tell the reader, the patient got better. She was cured with kindness and loving care. She married; raised children, lives in a dolls house. Looks out at other people’s lives and worries sometimes something is missing. There are no nesting swans.

She chooses not to want to remember. “Everyone is entitled to make at least one mistake.” She argues, making fresh mistakes each and every day. But these are the kind everyone learns to live with. Another delusion.

I read poetry with literate women who reacted indifferently. Some identified irony in the words, others summed up the work categorically, under the heading. “Self-obsessed arsehole.”

Nothing can bring back what has been given, and in turn taken.

Love and lust; sane and insane remain states of mind, unless you are affected.

I wish now I’d kept a better record of days we spent together.

It’s possible we could have missed one another at the outset; looked the other way. Never found what we were searching for. Some are doing it right now, and will continue. Delusion or true?


Desmond Kelly

12 thoughts on “True by Des Kelly”

  1. Hi Tobias. Thanks for the positive response. I was trying to give the story a different twist to the usual stuff. I’ve written a counterpoint tale called False which I hope to offer up shortly. Cheers. Des


  2. Found you on Shortbread. Read “Marbles.” Found my comment: “Your words are like tiny shards of glass that hit the heart.” Never stop writng. My best, June


    1. Thank you June. I’m really glad you were able to look back to other works of mine. I’ll keep writing as long as people like what I do. Des


  3. Hi Desmond, I must admit this had a very surreal feeling for me and I think the final conclusion and line, ‘Never found what we are searching for’, completely summarized the truth behind the writing. An interesting piece of prose.



  4. I wasn’t sure what to make of this when I first read it Des and after three reads I’m still a bit confused. The style of the piece is very different from anything I’ve attempted or have generally read but the key for me is that it held my attention to the end and has made me want to read it again. Can’t ask a lot more than that out of a story I’d say! Thanks for sharing it with us. Cheers, Nik


    1. Hi Nik, it is a flippant and irrelevant piece, which is more about word play than story. I’m never certain about stories. I had a story (beginning/middle/end) turned down at first, so this is my second entry. I imagine whatever follows may be more mainstream, but I reserve judgement. Thanks for your kind observations. Des


  5. Hi Desmond, I have always admired how well you can do a slice of life writing. When you mix it with the depth that you have achieved, it makes for one interesting and enjoyable piece of work.
    All the very best.


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