communion

I found religion in the heart of Missouri in August at a college populated by girls too smart or dumb or scared or queer to go anywhere else on a campus bisected by a highway frequented by drivers more than happy to run us down.

I never knew it could get so hot. Summer clinging close like that girlfriend or boyfriend or friend in high school who followed you around between classes and wrote you poetry about slipping into and under your skin that you thought was romantic and maybe illicit in a thrilling way instead of making you think of Ed Gein.

Sweat in places I forgot I had and heat rash forever breaking out red and cruel across the soft expanse of my inner thighs. Unforgiving wet heat. No fleet of box fans could move that heavy air. Secretly we all worried our hair would start to mildew– it never seemed to dry between showers.

The thermometer climbed so high the cicadas couldn’t stop screaming their protests. I took shifts with my suitemates in voluntary ice baths to keep the hysteria of heat stroke at bay. We didn’t go outside. The brave fought for prime real estate on granite bathroom tile or the cool marble of the parlor foyer, bare skin sticking to, warming the stone in exchange for a few minutes of bliss.

On a black day the cicadas fell silent. At dusk the storm hit. Without preamble or wind there came the rain sweeping across hot, soft asphalt and we followed like creatures possessed. Shedding sandals before the ground could cool. Careless feet running across concrete for the grass island before the chapel driveway. Shedding shirts to soak the downpour into our skin. Shedding skirts to move easier through the air and water. Shedding something we didn’t realize we carried until we set it down. Wave after wave of dancing girls screaming to the beat of thunder and strobing lightning laughing wet skin in the dark. Raging frolicking riding the wind and gale until our bones caught chills so deep we thought even Missouri couldn’t make us warm again.

Then, the clouds parted. The moon shone on the still debris: heaped, sopping clothes and naked girls breathless, dazed. The halls gave off their yellow glow and like moths we floated home.

rlb 4.27.17

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The Betrayal of Itemiel

Moonslight glinted off the copper-laid ribcage of the great drake that encased the city and all was peaceful. Eius, Viridi, and Ancora, knew no such luxury. In the dead of night the wives of Itemiel met in the baths while their children slept soundly.

They sat up into the small hours conferring. Ancora was pregnant with Itemiel’s twelfth son (his third by her). She knew in her heart that this son would be the one to kill their husband. A vision had come to her of her son, a bleeding star on the horizon of her mind’s eye, riding the skies from the southwest and driving a blade into Itemiel’s belly. 

Her son would grow tall and dark as his father and wear his palms painted in gold. Across his brow would hang the moons Itemiel had named for his very wives– a crown prince. The twelfth and final son given to the god who could not keep the sea would play the assassin.

Continue reading “The Betrayal of Itemiel”

Freedom

A hundred candles burned on the altar to the Conqueror. Across the room a fire raged, blistering hot. In the dead of winter the gladiatorial Oratory was hotter than the far deserts. The droning hum of High Polity filled the arches of the colosseum led by the sonorous intonations of the red-robed Kulav. He was an old man, bent with a century of study. Before him knelt a young man who had earned his freedom in the most worthy way, in blood, and was reentering the world under another, purer yoke than that of slavery: service to Ból.

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Death and the Mother Goddess

Death found Himself lost  in a field of stars as foreign to Him as the sands of Viridi and here He found Illyria. Her endless currents unbroken. The Goddess’s children, undying and unchanging. He tasted ozone and honeysuckle on every breath and He knew this place was not Empty. Over the waters Death said,

“Who are you?”

Continue reading “Death and the Mother Goddess”

The Slough of Despond

Now I saw in my dream that… they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was “Despond.” Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt… because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.”

— John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Slough of Despond is a nasty, miserable bog of guilt that sucks people in and is almost impossible to escape. In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s an allegory for sin but I think it can be more accurately described as Depression. Yes, capital-D, clinically-diagnosable Depression.

Knowing someone stuck in the Slough of Despond can be difficult, draining, and generally lead to depression itself. I know this because I am scandalously intimate with the Slough. It’s my Unhappy Place. I’ve lived with it since I was 8 years old.

Continue reading “The Slough of Despond”

carrie

I’m making a pb&j at midnight because I live alone and can do this kind of thing without arousing suspicion. I haven’t eaten a full meal in a week. The world has made me sick.

As always when I’m sick and tired I think of you. How it’s been almost three months since we last spoke. Almost eighteen since we kissed. How when Death came for me my mother turned you away from our doorstep and how I am glad and resentful for it. How you went from being the woman I wanted to marry to a bullet grazing my cheek en route to elsewhere. Late nights like this the scar stings. I do my best to soothe it with hamfisted metaphor and flourishes but I always fall short.

I always fall short.
*
I never read the letter you left on my nightstand.

But then you went and gave my mother a card for me in the wake of my nearly-dying. A card full of hallmark sentiments about freedom. “You just crawled tooth and nail from your death bed but don’t you remember how I broke up with you? Aren’t you happy I let you go free?” I’m paraphrasing but that is the spirit of it and I wish I’d never read it.

Would you have said the same thing at my funeral? Eulogized not my corpse below you but our relationship? Waxed poetic about the crushing kindness you did me by breaking my heart?

As if I would allow you to speak at my funeral.
*
I think I understand what happened now. When your feelings fill your lungs like tar you don’t know what to do about the slow pain of drowning. You wheeze about your selflessness and sacrifice and the undying love you bear others and never manage to cough up what’s eating you.

Lucky for me I’m not dead and I only miss you like this when I’m tired and hungry. Maybe that’s what drove you away. I smother the things I love when there is no clear line at the start of no man’s land.

First come the smiles, then the lies- last is gunfire.
*
Here we are. Alive and full to bursting. Me with cheap metaphor and you with unspoken tar.

Tell me, how does your freedom taste?

rlb 8.18.17

L’appel

Everything smells like blood. I can’t tell if it’s my body or if everything actually smells like blood. I’ve been taking rat poison so long, walking the tight rope of “just enough to keep me from dying”.

I would like to stop taking it.

I would like to wake up without tasting iron.

I would like to finish a novel.

I would like to be left alone with a one-bedroom apartment, a good night’s sleep, broken eggshells with no remorse, no more thinking in fours.

I would like to shrug off shame with the same ease with which I curse the bad angle of a door swinging shut. “Shit. That’s fine. I didn’t need those knuckles anyway.”

If wishes were horses beggars would ride.

Fortunately for bitter English proverbs today my locus of control is more internal than external and I’ve got an idea.

rlb 5.16.17

Epiphany

I saw a boy who looked like you today and in his face I beheld a revelation: no matter what you have done (the list is long) or how much hate I harbor in my heart (you’d better believe it is a lot) toward you for it you are a human being. You are made of the same atoms as the rest of us with only negligible differences. You are held together by those same half-comprehensible forces as the rest of us. I will always see boys with you in their faces.

Nevertheless, you curbstomped my heart and I fucking hate you.

rlb 5.12.17