How to Get Utterly Lost by stephanie porven


For Maria. Thank you for the title. The final line of this poem was inspired by the line “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. The found poetry elements of this visual art piece were created from pages torn out of Amber Smith’s The Way I Used to Be.

Full view of visual art piece How to Get Utterly Lost.

How to Get Utterly Lost


Find yourself bombarded by invitations

to trivia nights, walk-a-thons, morning yoga

classes at breweries you will ‘like’ but not attend,

and selfies taken at places on your bucket list

by people who can fly international while

you’re budgeting grocery runs and rent payments.

It’s like my entire world revolves around

worrying how many

likes until I’m



Witness friends ignite comment crusades

in the name of politics, latch onto flaws in typed

arguments the way felines on Scythian daggers

latch onto the jugulars of ungulates.

I have




- - -

Will you

help me

find it?

Watch these same friends share profound joys:

zoomed-in photos of engagement rings

on hairy knuckles, of fetuses reclining in wombs.

(Do not be offended if you aren’t invited to celebrate

these milestones. Remember, real friends don’t bother

with formalities; they point out blueberry seeds

wedged between your teeth.)


*See steps 1 and 2

Rip out the page

of communication these days

• Leave dishes soaking and laundry unfolded to read

articles like “18 Things Only Professional Nappers Will Understand.”

(a title crafted to make you believe it was written just for you)

• Salivate over Tasty videos on how to make

anything with unnecessary amounts of cheese

• Cry over before and after photos of dogs nursed back to health,

over footage of troops who surprised their families back home.


that hints at your loneliness, begs to be addressed:

What are the saddest words you’ve ever been told?


You can’t sing…so, don’t.

Grow up.

You were a chore to be with.

I don't cry. Not anymore.


how cyberspace can foster vulnerability,

yet shield against human interaction.

I don’t mean just sex.

I’m not saying your tongue needs to meet

the wildness in another person’s body.

There is more than flesh against flesh.

I don’t have the words for it right now,

but when you find them, mail them

to me at P.O. Box 032293 so I can read

them before bed, imagine he’s up there

whispering them to me.

So please, please

#beforeidie I

want to

hold you

one more time

probably more than you even know.

Have you ever felt alone in a crowded room?

Think of those who sit in waiting room corners

with phone screens shedding dull light on their faces.

Think of those who stand in packed elevators

where the only sound is the ding of the bell

as they ascend, echoing that we are all so lonely,

clinging to our loneliness in purple-blue darkness

the way we yearn to be held by one another.

Loneliness is not a mood, it's a wound.


A letter, dated the 28th of May (the year I realized H.O.P.E. was an acronym):

Dear Reader,

If you’ve made it this far, you are

as Oscar Wilde once said, Utterly, irrevocably, lost.

Think Eurydice’s eyes when Orpheus turned

and met her gaze over his lyre/ and their hands

slipped/ and their voices broke/ and their bodies

were cursed/ catapulted to opposite realms

like magnets of the same polarity.

Yes, Reader. Lost like that.

So here’s your last chance to take it all back:


When the elevator doors open to the sound of the last bell,

take off your shoes. Follow the dirt and stained glass

path until your heels crack. Until your soles bleed.

Until you meet me underneath the willow tree in that place

where Vonnegut says everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

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