Origami Man

Origins of the Origami Man

Call me a historian—

the map of me folded into a throat, whispered

on the backside of a doubt

keep your head up, shoulders back.

Your eye always on the prize.

Thousand-fold, one for each

hard blow gone mindset. Your spine

will bend back and forth

until it is as thin as string—

turn from the hips, look straight ahead

like you done this before,

like all the times you were called

bitch. The deep split of that tongue

sucks the tears from your thirst

till you turn to paper. 

Advice from the Origami Man

Cut the love letters from your

feet and watch how movement

becomes man’s way

of commanding attention.

Be careful—

an origami heart

is still paper in its makeup.

It tears in water and wear;

the soft will wash from your bloodstream

and this paper will become heavy

as fist and feathers

because fight or flight is the quickest way

to kill the boy in the man.


along the tendons and fibers

the twist and shatter—

watch those thumbs

curl into punches.

Promise: the trauma from the blow

is never as much as

you hurt me.

Let that poem sit heavy in your throat

and when you spit

let the sparks burn the ground

because that’s the night

you’ll get a seat at this table

and feast like the king you never were.

Truth of the Origami Man

Do you still sing this song, Poet?

You say you write this constitution

on the boundaries of me? Stop trying

to soft the beat and blind this blade. 

There is no gentle in this—

not for you, not for me, not any other man—

we are all thinning at the edges

and counting the threads—victimless I swear

because vice over risk. 

Shake this up and

watch your hypocrisy crumble

because lines separate things for a reason.

If you can’t be honest with yourself

and hunt when the smell of blood isn’t yours,

they will come for your teeth and leave with your truth.

Do not unfold this poem

because your fault lines will split

at the creases.

Your footing is nothing more

than the shoes you can’t fill.

Keep it together.

To the Origami Man

And when this body

becomes nothing more than a body,

and when I am nothing more than origami

look for the smoke signals

and statistics,

the silence falling from mother’s eyes.

In the outline,

write me lost boy

because I am both the crime

and the detective

and the only difference is my alibi—

the squeeze,

the mirror keeps me up at night,

the ones that scare

the shit out of me

because I have folded the boy

into shreds;

he is crawling

up my throat,

looking for meat.

Tomas Nieto

Tomas Nieto is a writer and educator from San Diego. He holds degrees from San Diego State University and San Francisco State University. An alum of Las Dos Brujas and VONA/Voices, his work has appeared in Solstice Literary Magazine, The Rumpus and others.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.