Docu-letters: Smith & Maplethorpe

C. H. Gorrie




You’re so tired. Why can’t you just say it? You’re tiring. Of me. It’s in your irises every time you begin nervously shifting your supplies about. A sort of blankness that incarcerates you. And as the frequency and weight of our silences continue to grow, I find myself asking “why.” It’s become an endless loop humming all day in the back of my mind. I try quieting it at work but it’s…it’s engraved inside me, even slightly outside, as if the feeling protrudes invisibly from my sternum and jaw. The expressionless nights are whittling me and I ache for words to pass between us. Even trivialities would suffice. I know you. I’m familiar with your taciturn resolve, with your oblique interior. I respect that. But I can’t ignore my need for communication. It’d be false for us both to go on in this deafening muteness. I don’t want to become another aspect of your turmoil, blurred out in the undulations of a battle only you can fight.

Your eyes: black suns, teeming with quiet.
Silence never felt so far away.
Somewhere Brooklyn clamors, jostling
Sycamore leaves: embossed ornamentation
On muddy snow.



Patti—What I Think—Robert

I thought you knew – I open doors, I close doors. I inch down the hallway – methodically, sheepishly, soundlessly –I crack a door, wincing at the shrill creak. I gaze for hours from one half of one eye through a slit, unable to open the door any further. Over the next day I slowly – inch by inch – pry the door open the rest of the way. What’s in the room isn’t so important, really. I bask in whatever it offers: sunlight, dust, a rapt audience. Sometimes I can’t completely open the door and I slam it shut before I get halfway. Other times I just stand at the door and wait, or listen, or carefully trace the doorframe while shutting my ears to the world. There are only two certainties for me. The first is that I will always be in the business of opening and closing doors, the second is that once I choose to enter a room I’ve already made the decision to exit it.

I need you, Patti, cause no one else sees the way we do. We’re seers. But more than that, or because of that, I need myself, and he’s wandering somewhere else right now, and I’ve got to get him back. He wants to open a door to the west coast, in a tenement in the Castro District of San Francisco.

All of this opening and closing has made me a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde figure in not only your life, but others’ as well. I am loving and hating everything and everyone all at once. I try to gratify myself sexually with someone else, because I – I admit it – have tired of your body, but immediately afterwards I feel unsatisfied, and desires for you begin anew. At times I hate all of my art, and want to burn my copies of Michelangelo’s Slaves, to stab my Madonnas through with the back of my brush…but before the rage truly takes over, this inexplicably devastating love for my work spills forth and reverts the direction of my feelings.

I remember you quoting Shakespeare: “Wonder-wounded hearers.” Am I one of the wonder-wounded? Was it Warhol or his factory workers who pierced that inoperable wound? Michelangelo or the Pope? Was it you? Me?

I stand naked when I draw. God holds my hand and we sing together.



"This hybrid piece takes the form of an exchange of letters between the musician and writer Patti Smith and her long-time friend and lover the photographer Robert Maplethorpe. The piece was inspired by Smith's memoir "Just Kids", and attempts to open a more detailed avenue to an era of their friendship. The piece is not restricted by this context, however, and serves as a testament not only to the young artist's sensitivities, but to young love and loss in general."


C. H. Gorrie is an editor, poet, writer, and musician hailing from San Diego, California. He is the co-founder and co-editor of Synesthesia Literary Journal. His work has appeared in various venues such as the Aztec Literary Review, the San Diego Poetry Annual, The Penn Review, Dink Mag, and Poems-for-All.