Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about graves and soft warm webs of earth that suck me down into the heart of everything where I suffocate kindly with the brevity of winter twilight. Breath frozen across lakes of cold fire will become pebbles in your shoes, slowing your steps until you stop and look behind you at the ghost dogging your every step. All you’ll see is the veil of frost my shadow has become. All you’ll see is the bluing of your ragged memory. Time is kinder than you know.
Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about the graves I’ve dug to bury myself in, lost in blind thickets of brambles where only the wasps dare visit. Under cover of damp leaves, fresh with soft rain, my bones shift restlessly, clattering against each other like new life impatient to breathe in the first dawn. Impatient to taste dappled light and sour fruit and all the other young things. My bones rustling in their nest of soil, rock, and petal attracts the keen hunter threading through the woods. Nothing here, nothing here, I whisper just above the serrated edge of the leaves that hide me. Move along, move along, move along thirsty hunter! My bones are dry as your parched mouth and full of emptiness and thorn.
Maybe it’s time to stop writing myself grim lullabies about the graves at the edge of town where all the homeless people huddle for warmth in the cardboard city built of acrid sweat and torn shoes. Their roofs of thin branches and icicle daggers are nothing more than spider lairs hung between their thin blankets and the feelingless stars. Even when I try to hold their heads in my marrow lap they can’t feel these dead hands. Can’t feel anything but the chill of my heart spread across the winter grass fields in hoarfrost.
Sometimes I’m swimming in a lake of moulting snakes and I feel the turbid water thickening around my ankles, pulling me down. Pulling me into the deep. Pulling me into this turbulent body that’s meant to be glassy and clean, that’s meant to be a mirror. Been feeling closer to my childhood name. Been feeling closer to my natal temperament, my hot red-faced rage at things that don’t work the way they should. Remembering the water that terrified me, remembering all that outrage, held down in such small ribs with such sharp nails.
Ain’t no melon cool enough to fix this bruise. Ain’t no space safe enough to fix this bruise. Doesn’t smart now, in this late-life hour, it’s just the grave I throw my rosemary over. Grassy and cold, ain’t no cradle big enough to make this spirit rise again.
The moment to become anything is every moment. Doesn’t have to have trumpets to announce it, doesn’t need a royal carpet to invite you to walk to the light, or to the dark, whatever calls the loudest. Doesn’t have to come with the odor of sandalwood and roses to pull you forward. Just needs your heart still attached to your arteries, just needs your sinew still holding everything together in a piece that can give voice to the moon, to the sun, to the ghost pines weeping through city alleys.
Ain’t no song rich enough to fix this break. Ain’t no basement deep enough to hide this break. Doesn’t smart now, in this late-life hour, it’s just the grave I throw my cards across. Ain’t no cradle big enough to make this spirit rise again.
This dirty corner crusts with regret faster than you can count cost. Nightmares rise into morning like train whistles killing time. Jump cars like a punk and find your bones breaking under the weight of emptiness, the feral smell of skin gone rogue. Whiskey mornings blazing through your blood like newspaper clippings drunk on all the sick, wait for it. Every time. You thought it would be easier than this, that the siren call would sound more like love and look more like joy.
It’s all been recorded on the freeway of your emancipation, the asphalt, the better Roman roads. The blue silk Cheongsam Ms. Rose gave you, the one that seduced you like the math she said could calculate and translate your curves. A thousand cigarettes couldn’t erase her influence on your mind. Took years to unbury what she built in you but it paid off like a lottery of love.
All these small ladders, the tie shop, the passionate crush, the eloquent silences, the concession to friendship with the man, dead this year, who broke up with you for fear of breaking your unbreakable heart. You laughed at his arrogance, you knew yourself to be harder than he could possibly know because your face wears your hope rather than your experience and knowledge. Twenty years later and nothing has changed.
Can still smell the clove cigarettes and hot coffee. The shelves you put these things on are weak. The light snakes and the memories shake like blancmange. Predators circle and you smell them first so they can’t net you into their game. You’ve dished them the rope they needed to hang themselves and there’s no regret. No looking back at what you might have done if no one had forced your hand.
It’s always come down to this.
Everything I know to be right is sideways.
There isn’t enough rope for this.
I watch people trawling for all expression of light like greedy black holes of insatiable platitudes no one will teach them to regret. They take their nets through the underbrush catching at twigs and thorns that pull at their hair and knot the threads of their fear without dimming their hunger for shimmering flecks reflecting off the dead branches they’ve hung their dreams out to dry on. I watch people trawling for scraps of light as though it were the everything, the coin that opens happiness, the element that delivers the secret of God. I watch people falling on their knees to the sun, shedding themselves like abandoned promises, falling to their knees in abject worship.
The light is emptier than they can measure. It reflects back to them what is already there. I have tried to catch it too. I have broken myself against the impermeable glass I was born looking through trying to claw my way out of this dark.
Prey lives in the negative space between the cracked clay and the cotton.
Hunger is sated in the negative space between light and dark. I would aim my arrow where it meets, where color fills the hollows. I would aim my arrow where the drums hit low and break through the placid surface of dead lakes. The vein of the doe is strung between the brush and the sky where everything runs red with iron and oxygen.
The light isn’t the driver of God, it doesn’t scare the devil from the corners. The light is what burns through your retina and blows through your skin until it’s an opulently transparent husk. The dark feeds everything the light evaporates with heat. The dark cools streams and slakes thirst. It’s the thing that holds the light to earth.
I am the arrow that aims where color fills the hollows and weeps for mercy.
I am the prey.
I am the prey that hides in plain sight.
I am the prey you can’t see under this canopy of light.
Skinning the truth requires vision, sharp knives, and long skirts. Or skirts that hide more souls than plain air. Strike the cello with your faith, with your scriptures, with your colorful omniscience. Bleed into the woodwork like a silverfish recognizing your first rain, your first damp spell that rests across your shoulders like slaked thirst, like a fresh contract.
Squeeze what light you can from the street I’ve walked, from the rooms I’ve laid down in, from the stains of your own convictions. Scar your own skin under the freeway, between the cars and the light. I raise you a razer and wish you a soul spit-shine. Lay with the fishes, swim with the sharks, bleed with the teens. This body is nothing more than a reflection of a nightmare. Let me go. Let me go. Let me go.
Every knife is utility, every knife has my name etched across its metal. You can’t see it because it hasn’t called you out. Crooked lines lead to imperfect veins like a map you remember from birth, like skin rifting with the atmosphere, like love you wish wouldn’t flash across your window. Like death when it splits your memory.