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The Conductor

She traps all the air

Inside the clarinets

Filling every mental note

With hot, humid dread


Then plucks on my nerves

Like strings on a violin

Conscious of each break,

Bitter twist, and each bend


I’m sweating through my body

the brass becomes red

She pokes into the smallest tubes

The cracks and crevices


Till trumpets overflow

And spit valves burst open

I cannot bear the pain

I will not play again


And when the orchestra

Is done, finished

The cymbals bang

The Conductor flourishes


I look to the floor

The rest of our time

She steps out the room

All I want to do is cry



But next week she conducts again.

PAULINE AKSAY is a storyteller based in Toronto, Canada. She has experience in writing poetry, digital animation, and in illustrating children’s books, and has previously received two artist’s grants to write, illustrate and self-publish two children’s stories. Aksay’s work explores mental health, perception, imagination, and the limits of memory, offering an evocative glimpse into the human experience from the eyes of an outsider. She aspires to promote the emotional intelligence, compassion, and understanding in the people who engage with her work. You can find her at

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