Joe Nasta: Do You Know What It Is to Be Empty

Joe Nasta: Do You Know What It Is to Be Empty



don’t focus on the highway sounds, and

your mind transforms them into rushing water.  


if you don’t wonder why or how,

the cars and waves crash gently on your ribs. 


your cliff’s sharp points are soothed 

by briny rhythms kissed into your mouth.  


the dirt and grime are rinsed away.

your cheeks are moistened by my bleeding tongue,


and your skin peeled back in layers. I’ll fill your face 

with salt. a crusty residue. your body, new.


now trust me. cross this highway.  come hold my hand

inside our ocean.  you're shuddering.


don’t focus on the tire squeals and honks. 

ignore the headlights swerving past your belt.


just close your eyes and listen.

let the waves hit.




When I remember it, my whole body tightens, as if to say “no.” 

My sex doesn’t live inside this body. This moment has sent it out. I don’t remember. Often. I say it out loud to erase it, forget. Speaking is power. Speaking is just words. It is a word. My sex does not live in my body. This moment is often. Remember. 

The sounds come out of my mouth, disembodied. My whole body tightens, then lets them go. I do not live inside this body. The creaky staircase I knew. Every step screams, and I make them scream for me. Hoping. Wake up and see. 

Speak. My body. My sex. The clink of pint glasses in the afternoon. I do not remember. I cried. Have you ever had sex with a man. The whir of the ceiling fan. My whole body tightens, as if. 

I say, “no.” I say No I say No I say I speak my body speaks my body remember it often I do not remember the afternoon the staircase the creaking steps I say No I say. 

When I remember it, my whole body tightens. When I really remember, I can’t breathe. In that moment, my sex was outside of my body. Do you know what it is to be empty. The crinkle of a plastic water bottle, thud on the dresser. It woke me when he turned on the fan. The curtains stirred. 

Speaking is speaking is speaking is I say I say I say my body tighten tight release my sex empty body creak the curtains screaming speak it is my body empty. 

This moment. I remember. I cry. I can’t. Do you know what it is? 



When he put his tongue in my mouth I felt burning rubber. I said, “no, no.”
He asked me, “why?”
& I said, “your daughter—” 

     in the next room 

     my stepmother 

     his blubber 

He told me to go downstairs, and I did. 



The dining room table was set for a dinner we didn’t have. Decoration in too big houses. The dining rooms hardly get used. He told me to get on my knees. 

He said, “Well, put it in your mouth.”
My mouth teeth gums clench in my throat my body tighten my body is release now empty. 

The inside of my elbow my foot soles my earlobes my kneecaps my body I speak I say I speak I say I speak I say is power is power too big houses, rooms he told me, the table set creak curtains the carpets wineglasses dark knees white white white briefs my body how do I say my body say no say my body speaks and your daughter who am I inside this my body empty speaking is power power power power I say I say I say. 

I was wearing white briefs. They became dirty when he touched me through them. My body. The room was dark enough to see red shame in the wine glasses of each place setting. 




Alone. Alone.
Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. 

The cricket sounds from the creek in our backyard creeping in through the window. It is dark. I am alone. I want to be alone and I want to be quiet. The sounds of quiet dark and alone the creek the yellow light my curtains whir the ceiling fan click click click alone the bed. The dresser. The tan carpet and grey walls alone so dark so quiet and alone the yellow light the rushing water runoff creek the water creek and cricket curtains so alone the carpet on my feet I sit pin straight on the bed and stare into the dark. 

My body does not shake it does not shake I do not shake my body is alone my body is below me I am in the ceiling fan the whir the click the creek outside my window creek the crickets yellow light alone I creep I creep I creep my body creaks the creek creaks my joints creak I wonder why I am I am I am I am I am I am alone my body sit in quiet dark alone I wonder why the creak creek creek creek yellow light the curtains in the wind the window closed the wind the ceiling fan click click click why I wonder where I went I went I went I went outside the yellow light so soft I creek the creak my body in the dark alone I wonder why I wonder why I wonder sit sit sit sit joints are fans are I are went so yellow wet and cold the rushing bed the grass is soft my bed I sit pin strait the carpet on my feet the window closed the curtains wind the ceiling fan click click click click the crickets creek the creak rush water grass the dark. 

The dark. The dark. 

I wonder when I wonder why I am the darkness. I am not inside my body is my body I am wind the window curtains whistle creak. My body is 





When I speak my whole body tightens. My sex is not inside my body. If you say it enough, it will become true. If you say it twenty more times it stops making sense. If you play the scene in your head it becomes nothing. My body speaks, then releases. Can I know what it is, empty. The creak of each step. The whir of the ceiling fan. Glass clinking. The world. Speaking. 

That is to say, no. I cannot. 

That is to say, remember. 

Joe Nasta is a queer writer and mariner who splits his time between Seattle, New York, and the ocean.  He is an alum of the US Merchant Marine Academy and several workshops at Brooklyn Poets, Hugo House, and Corporeal Writing.  His work has been featured by Brooklyn Poets The Bridge and published in Running Wild Press Anthology of Stories.  He produces digital zines at and posts poetry, art, and thoughts on Instagram @jrnasta and Twitter @roflcoptermcgee