If

You walk back into my office.

Entire universes live and die on the fingertips of choice.

“I feel like an asshole–”

I stop breathing. Look you in the eye for the first time in a year smell the warm denim jacket skin unscented soap crushed lavender from across the room. In the winter of your pause I am in suspended animation living the memory of my arms around your perfect waist, soft, pulling you back into bed.

You aren’t looking at me.

I’m looking past every time you said I was something that could be fixed and into a future where kickstart apologies sputter into something bruised burning wilted growing up out of ashes the way forests do after wildfires.

“– I didn’t need that appointment after all.”

The splitsecond hairsbreadth moment passes.

I exhale.

“If” is the biggest word in the English language.

rlb 4.11.17

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debutante

i.

Death made me

a little giddy i’ll confess

brushing past on the ballroom floor, an

accidental meeting beneath

lead crystalglass refractions,

a not-quite-teasing

glance that i can’t

be bothered to return because

She left me

the courage to kiss

handsome

girls.

 

rlb 4.5.17

 

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”

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

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.

Continue reading “Freedom”

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”