Nightmare Magazine




When At Last He Was Empty

Content warnings:

Bodily fluids and internal organs, bodily harm

I can’t recall the precise moment of inspiration that spawned this poem, but it’s a merger of two unsettling notions taken to terrible extremes. The first is the helplessness experienced while vomiting and the awful thought I’ve had in mid-spew: “What happens if this heaving doesn’t stop?” Second, the realization while browsing treasures at estate sales: “One day, the evidence of my life, too, will be laid out on display, labelled and bargain-priced.”


The words poured out of him first

in the semblance
of order but more often
in gibberish and never repeated.

cola offspring shadow harlot went to church
penis vagina factory closed seashell squish

After that he was beyond the telling,
empty of vocabulary, a drooling thing

leaking first piss and shit—the obvious
choices—followed by sweat and blood.

Next he vomited out his organs which
glistened like spring’s morning garden

and seemingly miles of veins moist and
tangled like spaghetti on the soiled carpet.

He hacked up a skeleton’s worth of bone
each clacking upon the next into a pile of

kindling until he was a deflated jellyfish
twitching next to all his familiar pieces.

An unmade puzzle. A list of ingredients.
A ransacked dwelling. A broken orchestra.

I thought he was probably done until his
dreams oozed out of his various holes.

Chasing the devil. Sex on the beach.
A crowded high school. Falling to earth

When at last he was empty, I sorted him
out, neatly bagging and labeling every bit.

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Rob E. Boley

Rob E. Boley likes to make blank pages darker. He lives with his wife and his daughter in Dayton, Ohio. By day, he manages and analyzes big data. Yet each morning before sunrise, he rises to strike terror into the hearts of the unfortunate characters dwelling in his novels, stories, and poems. He co-founded Howling Unicorn Press with his wife, author Megan Hart, to conjure tales that thrill, chill, and fulfill. You can learn more about this weird figure of the dark by visiting his website at