Tell me the story of your pain and disappointment.

Every excruciating detail.

Tell it to me so slowly that it becomes something else in the telling.

Tell me in English, but feel free to throw in words from other languages from time to time so that you know I am paying attention when my eyes don’t cloud with misunderstanding.

Tell me how hurt you were when your mom said nothing.

Tell me how betrayed you felt when your best friend died, but kept on living and turned the rest of your friends against you.

Tell me everything. Now.



Tell me why you walk with that limp.

Tell me how you came about your hatred of people who cannot spell.


Describe hell from the inside out for me, again, slowly, slowly.



And if you won’t, tell me why you never tell me anything.

Tell me why I am a fool filled with guesses even though I know how much you get off on correcting me.

Tell me why I can’t fuck you.

Tell me why there are hardly any reasons left for anything.

Tell me why they say blood is blue even though it’s obviously red.

Tell me why people are like this.

Tell me why we are called people just like they are called people.

Tell me something that makes a difference.

And hey, listen, make sure it’s a really big difference.

Don’t fuck me on this.



Tell me there will be beaches in my future.

And ice cream.

Tell me everything I’ve ever forgotten.

Tell me my name.

Tell me my real name.

Say it slower.

Look at me harder.

Tell me I’m shit to God so it at least makes sense.

Tell me I’m going to be President.

Tell me I will be assassinated on my very first day in the White House so all that nervousness will have been for nothing.

Tell me a child could beat me up, but don’t beat me up.

Get me addicted to the idea of your approval.

Give it to me a few times. Then never again.



Tell me I want to fuck men but am too scared.

Dress me in a dress then beat me for wearing that dress.

Tell me I killed my brother in my sleep and that the police are just too dumb to piece what happened together.

Be the detective that does.

Tell me I am going to be 400 pounds by next week and that no-one will ever make eye contact with me again for the rest of my fat life.

Tell me karma is real and I will never get it and this is going to keep happening over and over and over and over again.

Tell me a lie more convincing than the truth.



Tell me my hair is made of licorice.

Tell me my eyes are really my balls.

Tell me I had a kid 20 years ago and that he is in the next room waiting to hug me and thank me for the life I gave him because he is getting married and is very, very happy.

Tell me I’ll never.

Tell me my teeth are not my teeth but the teeth of a third world child whose parents decided they wanted to eat that day.

Tell me my skin is titanium and that two years from now I will be given a brand-new heart. Then tell me you’re kidding and cut the sides of my mouth like the joker in the dark knight.

Hurt me until I feel nothing then continue to explore that nothing.

Break the rewind button on my old VCR.



Tell me I’m dead.

Tell me I’m dead and when I freak out, rub mint leaves on my temples and stroke my hair and then tell me you were just making a stupid joke, that I’m alive as summer in a douche commercial.

Tell me slowly then quickly, slowly then quickly, so I can laugh at the rhythm of your lips.



Make me a promise in the form of a statue.

Let birds shit on it.

Let frat boys pee on it.

Let it get hit by lightning and crack open and when that new, wet, disgusting mutation of me crawls out, fuck it, fuck him up too.

Let the biggest loser we know make fun of this.

Choke me just with your thumb and pinky to let the world see and know how weak I really am.

Giggle as I turn purple.

Remind me purple is for fags.



Tell me my father raping me was because I am sexy.

Tell me that that atrocity is now somehow good for my bowel movements.

Ah, make up a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo, for which I am particularly prone.

Explain my sins in terms of time, weather, and place.

Tell me I matter to more people than I really do.

Tell me that I’m Japanese and that the reason I don’t have slanted eyes is because I was abducted at birth and given surgery so that I could enjoy the benefits of living here as an Aryan.

Call me Gook and Charlie and make gun shooting gestures at me.

Tell me that the Holocaust was a blast but Hitler should have finished the job.

Tell me about the evil already in me.

Tell me twice.



Tell me I’m a farmer living in Idaho and that my potatoes ain’t shit.

Tell me you know I’ve hired illegal workers and that the police are on their way.

Tell me every joint I ever smoked was dusted but that I was too stupid to realize it.

Tell me my ear is a sewer.



Tell me I look like John Travolta.

No, tell me I look like that kid from Mask.

Or the Elephant Man.

Tell me every woman that’s ever kissed me did so on a dare.

Tell me I’ll never get it up again.

If I do, laugh.

If I don’t, laugh.

Laugh at me like an old slave owner.

Niggerize me.



Tell me I should have been a woman.

Tell me I am.

Tell me I’m going to have my period for the rest of my life, uninterrupted.

Tell me I smell like iron.

Tell me if I have a baby she will be a slut too.

Tell me if I were in China I would have never been allowed to be born.



Tell me I don’t even deserve to cry.

Tell me the evil in me is a balloon and blow and blow and blow into my holes until I pop and the world becomes a really shitty place.

Tell me my mother has been paying my friends to be my friends for forty years.

Tell me you spit in my soup, came in my milk.

Yell at me like Adam must have Eve after you-know-what.

Like a bad big brother, make me hit myself over and over again.

Tell me Barry is dead.

And Lynn, and Erin.

Smear their blood on my stupid face and tell me it’s all my fault, that if I never loved them it wouldn’t have ever come to this.



Tell me in the voice I most recognize.

Tell me with intimacy, tenderness; like you think it’s turning me on.

Tell me on a crowded moving train so I can’t even scream.

Laugh as I swallow that scream.

Then another.

Then another.

Let your laughter be the last thing I hear before I pass out.

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

PETER SCHWARTZ is a poet, photographer, and writer. His poetry has been featured in The Columbia Review, Diagram, and Opium magazine. His photography has appeared online at CELLA’s Round Trip, eyeshot, and Litterbox magazine. His fiction in such places as Nano Fiction, Pindeldyboz, Prism Review, and DOGZPLOT, where he is art editor. He thanks God and O.C.D. for his extensive publishing credits.

55 responses to “Tell Me”

  1. Peter! This somehow manages to bridge all divides–funny, poignant, scary, irreverent, reverent and honest. No mean feat to say the least! I actually interwebbed around and found some of your other work. Truly impressive. This isn’t really “abusing” you, but that’s what you get for writing such a beautiful…poem? Prose poem? Ah, screw it. Whatever it is, I’m very moved. Tremendous work. More, please.

  2. Wow man, I’m speechless. You’re like, my idol, thanks. I just sent my homegirl your link and can’t stop talking about your lubed-up Teddy Ruxpin. I saw someone mention in your comments that he thought you should get the next TNB Book. You should, you better, or I will go fuck people in the supermarket. (this is my default rebellion setting). Thanks again.

  3. Lynn says:

    Peter I’m glad I caught this, I loved this, this is you. It reminds me (not that I need it) of the things that make me want to stick with you and keep your hair in my pocket and send you cards from far away places and discuss what is missing in a chain restaurant although admittedly the celery is crisp and they are good about leaving us alone… Be who you are.

  4. Lynn, I don’t know what else to say but: I love you. You’re like a person, but a million trillion times better. Thank you and hell yeah, I’m a do ME. (Guess I did know what else to say).

  5. The line “Tell me I’m dead and when I freak out, rub mint leaves on my temples and stroke my hair and then tell me you were just making a stupid joke, that I’m alive as summer in a douche commercial” is the funniest, eeriest damned thing.” It’s following me, haunting me like a comely deviant in a supermarket.

  6. Tell me to type This Poem is Really Excellent, and then beat me for typing this poem is really excellent.

  7. Zara Potts says:

    Ouch. This hurts.

  8. dwoz says:

    There’s something about this piece that I find completely annoying, but I think it has much more to do with me than with it.

    Which, I suppose, is a sign of success, in it’s own way.

  9. Tyler, hahaha, you! I just re-read this; I guess writers aren’t supposed to compliment themselves because we’re all human garbage but the line that really has me snickering: “Tell me I’m a farmer living in Idaho and that my potatoes ain’t shit.” Where the fuck did that come from? Hahaha. Man, let’s just write really silly shit for eternity and make each other giggle. You got me gassed now, I might just have to explore a part two to this. Still haven’t read ALL of your posts yet. I’m saving a few because I know when I run out I’ll be a sad. (lol @ supermarkets).

  10. Sean, you look pretty solid, I might not be able to beat you unless you go TOTALLY LIMP. If that’s a dealbreaker than I’m not taking any chances.

  11. Zara, that’s good but if it gets too too painful, do what I do: look at the farmer line.

  12. dwoz, I have many, many legitimate guesses about what might annoy you about this piece that have nothing to do with you, but I don’t want to blow my steeez. And yeah, I guess any reaction is better than no reaction. Thanks for the comment.

    • dwoz says:

      I think the best takeaway for you is that ambivalence is the worst kind of death. Managing to annoy someone is WAY up from there.

  13. Simon Smithson says:

    “Tell me the evil in me is a balloon and blow and blow and blow into my holes until I pop and the world becomes a really shitty place.”


    Yeah, as others have pointed out, this one really kinda went in all directions. Directions which, once again, I wish I’d thought of, Schwartz you fuck- – No! No, I won’t play your game!

  14. Judy Prince says:

    Peter—-Super Good framing of the way messed-up sides of us mess with folks, with you as the main victim of our messings-up. Wouldn’t you know you’d get the benefits and praise from writing up your own pitifallity?!

    I insist that you make this into a poem….in iambic tetrameter…..Petrarchan sonnet form.

    If you don’t do that, I’ll tell your mother who’s in bed with the local footballers. She loves you….kind of.

  15. Joe Daly says:

    Tell me my hair is made of licorice.

    Tell me my eyes are really my balls.

    Talk about keeping the reader on their toes! Moving through the first couple paragraphs, I was ready to buckle myself in for a brutally raw ride, but then you shake it up with nonsense and whimsy and it makes an already great piece even more zesty. Not to mention more whimsical.

    When I got to the end, I thought two things:

    1. This was really good; and

    2. I wonder how many people yelled into their monitor, “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

  16. Megan says:

    Let me tell you the stamina displayed here was impressive.

    I cannot tell you your father raping you was because you are sexy because your little avatar does not permit an evaluation of said sexiness.

    You cannot fuck me because we live in different countries. And I’m currently not taking fuckers.

    Beaches are in your future.

  17. Simon, awww. Really appreciate your support. In fact, tell ya what I’m gonna do (have good things EVER come after these words?), if you send me $59.99, I will send you my limited edition 360 Degrees of Direction Package in which you will find all my secrets. (Okay, I can’t go on, I’ll blow up my own spot: it’s just some pills and a thesaurus). Thanks again.

  18. Prince Judy, I’m a caveman but even I can smell the whiff of your trickery. I will die sonnetless along with many other lesses, but sorta appreciate the suggestion. Oh and my mama isn’t where you say she is, I’m looking at her right now!

    LOL @ praise for pittifality, shh girl, that’s like 3/4 of my game! Thanks very much.

  19. Joe, yeah it’s funny I didn’t even notice I was mixing in zesty whimsicality while I was writing this. I think I had to (pressure relief) or I would have melted. LOL, yes TNB-ers are lunatics; everyone probably yelled that. Much thanks.

  20. Megan, that’s the first time a woman has ever complimented me on my stamina [insert canned laughter].

    Is this the start of a plot to get me to send you nude pics of me? Hope so.

    Ugh, alright, this is me reluctantly adding you to the long, long list of women I can’t fuck.

    Aww, thanks. Actually, I live on a house by the lake now. That’s sorta beachesque I guess, so I’m getting closer…

  21. Aleathia Drehmer says:

    “Tell me a lie more convincing than the truth.”

    Need you say more Slim Shady? I want to know if multiple people can answer all these tells or is one person working this marionette? and if someone really told you all these things would it really change anything in the world as Peter knows it? Truth is the bottom line. Shazaam.

  22. Erika Rae says:

    Wow, this is raw. It sent shock waves through me – and then I’d be giggling by the next line. Crazy how you managed that. Seriously nice piece.

  23. Thanks very much, Erika. Hope the shockwaves weren’t too too bad. I like the thought of you giggling though. Hope to bring you more giggles soon.

  24. Irene Zion says:

    Peter, I have to leave for the airport right now. I only read this one time and that is obviously not enough. You take my breath away. I’ll be back, but way at the bottom, after I get where I’m going and do what I have to do.

  25. Garry Crystal says:

    Peter you should give up writing now – cos i do not know how you are going to top this. ‘Tell me how betrayed you felt when your best friend died, but kept on living and turned the rest of your friends against you’ – brilliant line as is the rest of this…how the fuck did you come up with this??? It inspires me to write but depresses me because i didnt write it….way to go man…your writing just keeps getting better and better..i’m going to have to reread this a few times.

  26. Wow, Irene. When someone is making plans about when they’ll read my work again, scheduling it into their itinerary, I must be doing something right. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And have a safe flight.

  27. Garry, haha, you’re too kind. Technically I can’t claim ownership. This came in one long stream after falling into a trance as opposed to my usual neurotic word-by-word OCD-fest. While your reading this piece over, I’ll be reading your comment over. I feel really shitty today, probably some kind of post-confession-high syndrome, so I really do appreciate your words very, very much. Thanks.

  28. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    There will be beaches in your future.

  29. Irene Zion says:

    of the
    two of you,

    She is your
    She is the
    She is a

    You ask for your
    your real name
    to be said
    she looks
    in your eyes
    you are asking
    the wrong person.

    The woman,
    your father,
    the trickster
    does not know
    real name.

    Your real name is still
    inside an

    You ask
    to be hurt
    until you feel
    nothing explored
    is pain yet again.

    You know this about

    If the promise
    in the form of a statue
    is made,
    it is
    shat on,
    pissed on,
    cracked open by lightening,
    that promise is not
    crawling out.

    It is she.
    It is he.
    It is the rapist.
    It is evil
    no sins are yours
    to explain
    in terms of
    nor weather
    nor place.

    If your ear is a
    sew it up
    Let it fester
    and die.

    What you heard
    with it
    is deception,
    is darkness.

    You do not smell like

    It is time to escape
    the darkness,
    the odor of decay.

    It is time to
    to a place of light
    and allow your
    true name
    to be born.

  30. Meg Pokrass says:

    Holy shit, this is brilliant Mr. Schwartz.

  31. Some things we just can’t put to words, and yet you have here. The rhythm, the prose, the emotion is like honey mixed with gas and set on fire. Torturous, and yet beautiful. Amazing art here, Peter.

  32. Thank you, Lisa. And I can tell from your font you’re not just saying that!

  33. Irene, I…

    You can’t imagine how on target you are with this. Or maybe you can. Sure enough, I’m researching grad schools right now and it’s all coming together beautifully. I’m in the process of walking right into that place of light. And you’ve now strengthened my stride greatly.

    Thank you to the exponent of infinity. I’ve truly got the power of Zion behind me now.

  34. Meg, shit is holy, you’re right. But it has to be pure shit. (credit my friend xTx for that one). Thanks!

  35. Wow Jodi, you bring up an interesting point. At what point does poetry become art? Because I don’t know what I did but I do think that not all poetry is art. But that’s fancy talk, what I really want to say is that you are art. This: “honey mixed with gas and set on fire” is a great image. Thanks.

  36. Irene, a few people have reported back to me that this piece made them cry, so, I’m not too proud to say it: your poem made me cry. Thanks again.

  37. Richard says:

    The gamut of human emotions. Bittersweet, up and down, in and out. Powerful stuff, Peter. Good job.

  38. Thanks Richard. You know, I just thought of something I kind of wish I didn’t. What if everyone is all: yeah good job man and all this, but really I’m just schizophrenic? Hahaha! That would be so metal!

  39. Todd Zuniga says:

    This is so good! The end is pitch-perfect. Nice.

  40. Scott Oliver says:

    this blew my mind all over the keyboard and on the computer screen… and I thank you from the bottom of my brain stem.

  41. Margaret Waage says:

    I can cry now or some future moment when I feel my impression on earth is a but a blink of an eye. So much truth and pain and ugliness and hurt that transpires to lightness and beauty. DEEP shit.

  42. Todd, thanks very much, man. BTW, I haven’t forgotten about that generous LDM invitation (like anyone would). I’ll check the site for when yall will be in NYC again and then start bugging you like the dim-witted step-brother you never had. Peace.

  43. Scott Le Rock, my poetic partner-in-crime! Thanks for weighing in, especially from the bottom of your superhuman brain stem. I owe you one new keyboard and computer screen because that sounds groooooosssssss. See you in October, playboy.

  44. dwoz says:

    Ok, so now that everyone has had a grand old time spit-polishing your sphincter, I’m going to give you some contrarian dance.

    I’ve decided what I don’t like about this.

    As I said earlier, it is as much about me as about you, so let’s not let this be a stone in the river of our ongoing RELATIONSHIP, eh? I’m all about constructive, so let’s be clear on that.

    The tone is grating. like over-dry parmigiana. It’s over-baked.

    While I appreciate the witnessing aspect of this piece, I have to talk tone.

    To me, this cries out: “I’m just so FLAMBOYANTLY emo self-aware.”

    That’s harsh, I know. When I offer this criticism, I ASSUME that we are talking about a VOICE, a narrator that is a construct offered by the author. Once removed. so to speak.

    That’s what I’m directing my vehement dislike at. Not the author but at the construct.

    The first time I read this, I was INEXPLICABLY reminded of the time I watched my 3-year-old daughter (who has grown into a very capable thespian, thankyouverymuch) working herself into a Class 5 tantrum, while surreptitiously peeking around the corner to see who was noticing. Because, what good, after all, to put in a Class 5 effort if there was no significant audience?

    That’s what I saw here. The character was caught up in some kind of puerile shit-smearing-fest that was more designed to be a spectacle than a true expression of honest angst.

    Peter, don’t take this as a hit job, please.

    THE FACT that it raised this level of ire means that the piece was a success. I just disagree with the gallery as to WHAT KIND of success it was.

    I have a nephew that tries to do this same thing. Get a rise out of us all with his gothness.

    Oh, please, nephew! Do you TRULY imagine that I have not seen death? that I have not seen the abject horror of the BOTTOM, and feel the guilt that my heel feels as it stepped over that pain?

    I used to think that my parents were some kind of mannequins. Before I became a man and realized that they probably sweat blood and tasted blood and spilled blood and smeared it too.

    So, you mother-rapers and father-killers…pull up a chair and pull yourself a double espresso from the machine, and have a seat. It’s thanksgiving time, after all. Maybe we share common ground.

    I know one thing…you can’t shock me.

    peace, and with much love,


  45. Jennifer Bosveld says:

    Peter, I don’t know if you are one of the Peter Schwartz’s I know but I have a question. Tell me. Other than on Facebook, is this appearing anyplace yet? Has someone agreed to publish it? If not, it would be one of the few already published pieces I’d be honored to turn into a chapbook. Let me know. We are not vanity or anything near it. We give 20 free copies and an opportunity to get extras but with no expectations. We have 1500 titles (mainly chapbooks) in print and many anthologies as well. This poem is awesome and should be available at AWP, NAPT, and on our shelves where it would stay in print. What do you think? If it interests you, if it isn’t too late, follow the directions on our mainpage and forget about our reading fee. This would be in the right place with Pudding House. But please follow the guidelines. If you’ve already placed it, no problem.

    Jennifer Bosveld
    81 Shadymere Lane
    Columbus Ohio 43213
    [email protected]

  46. Jennifer!

    I’m the Peter Schwartz whose poem ‘in order of whom’ you published in Pudding Magazine Issue #52. This piece appears nowhere else and rest assured, you’re my first republishing offer. The honor is mine. I’m very familiar with Pudding House as I have enjoyed some of your titles in the past. That you believe in me enough to ask me here and waive that fee, etc., leaves me breathless. I’m positive that Pudding House is the right place for this, too. Thank you so very, very much. Oh, and I’ll be at this next AWP in DC. As soon as I get in the building I’m making a beeline for your table whereupon I will give you a big, giant hug and help you in any way I can to get copies in the hands of readers. You’re what the small press is all about (or should be). Thanks again.

    P.S. I hit you up on Facebook, regarding a few minor details.

  47. bl pawelek says:

    nailed it man – some damn good lines in there. You will see on mentioned on Pank in the next couple days.

  48. Yahooey! Thanks so much Bl. PANK’s given me more love than a lubed up Teddy Ruxpin doll. Can’t wait to see it up (that’s what she said!). Peace.

  49. Hey, thanks everyone. This piece has actually opened up a whole new chapter of my life. Stay brave, my fellow writers and readers. The world is ours.

  50. […] Peter Schwartz’ genuinely excellent balls-out poem. […]

  51. The Tadpole that once loved the candle says:

    Tell me if you remember me
    The one flower you once called…..
    Wildly Beautiful……..

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