Righteousness on the weekends
Hang on, hang up, I, I, I, oh lord of eggs, oh beast of ice, your haveness within, your dark hide without
What I, I, and why don’t know
Our dances over bridges, through forests, through feelings
Your horsehair, our reelings, the horns you lend, the days we spend
Oh I and I, our you and we, the time we love, the streets we sleek,
Snow smears across my vision, the wind whipping crystals away before they melt. I stare over a muffled world, suspended between gray and blue-black, touched by winter, rolled in winter, its marks left on my pale arms, my crisp smile, my funeral carriage. Across the landscape of myself, I follow half-remembered markers, wet scarf slapping against my lips, muting a chant of longing. What we hunt is here, buried under banks, dropped in gloved fists, alive and not alive, slippery with hope. How long have I looked? How many times must I shame myself with this forgetfulness? There are hints in you, trees are carved with fingertips, the sap is slick on the tongue.
Why can’t I bring myself stars?
Is love a vector or a scalar?
Start with a void. Add a point. This point is you. Populate this three-dimensional nothingness with more points [you can make them different colours per category if you wish]. All the people who fill/have filled/will fill your life, all the concepts you hold yourself to, places you call home: they’re all points too, and they’re connected to you [in the dreams, it was gold and silver piano wire and I have no idea why]. It’s a mess of a matrix, and then we add motion. You might pull yourself closer along one path towards point, which stretches all the others [perhaps coming along, perhaps snapping, perhaps triggering a retreat of its own], which has effects down every path they’re connected to. Who we are is a vibrating spiderweb, and then we add time.
Time as expressed in dreams, desires, the money in our mouths. Everything we tug on that tugs back, everything that influences us also adjusts our momentum towards our myriad destinations, so that our motion resembles a corkscrew, sometimes careening wildly from one direction to the next. It’s a coiled mass, how life looks to me, as individual pathways intersect, tremble, twine together, burrow apart.
When they talk about string theory, this is what I picture.
Grief as a mistress.
I found everything I was in the well of noise, a patchwork dreamplace of colour and riots of heat that parted for my naked self and I stood on packed, red sand, watching the mismatched eyes and seeing acceptance and understanding. Every ugly secret with its twitching limbs and boiled face, every path away, every endless place. I, as I am, stood before the audience of the world and cried, inhaled sobs bowing my back, screams ripped from my throat and bounding above their heads.
There is no hope, is no promise.
There is no promise, is no fear.
Pain will find its flight into the dusk and the sun will rise on a truly new world.
Based on a true story.
The house sits at the bottom of the well, sunlight dripping slowly down, illuminating long-dead ivy, smoky sheets of cobwebs, rough red bricks carved with the images of beasts. They wriggle under the dust, squeaking and squabbling along the mortar lines, roaring faintly audible defiance to each other. Inside is a white piano and a three-legged stool, reflected in the brilliantly polished planks of the floor. The subdued cacophony from the walls spins words, a bizarre, bestial chorus.
“Look down. Watch the ladies dance.”
The ladies spin, tattered, crimson taffeta sliding against femurs and kneecaps. Up their skirts, yellowed silk unravels and reveals a tendon here or there remaining. Wrapped in the arms of wraithly gents, their faces powdered and slack with pain, twelve sisters are waltzing. It took two weeks to wear through their shoes, six years to wear through their feet, another hundred and their legs will be gone. Even the youngest, celebrated beauty of the capital, will die when the spell is broken.
The third son of a neighboring kingdom is at the door. Sometimes princes come too late.
Didn’t expect to see you here.
Trees are collapsing from the weight of their own fecundity into the river, swift water thick and dun with dirt. Dragon spines pierce the whitecaps before diving downstream. Looking up, their cousins ride the smog, out of reach of the ever-present powerlines. Invisible in my unimportance, I watch the girls on the far bank, laughter slippery as mud, hands locked together, training themselves to ignore the incredible. They’re coming from school, that brick colossus crumbling into sweet ruins the closer it gets to water. It’s a beautiful place after the bell, all dusty light and retired wishes unfolding, sharing itself cautiously as you trace curliques in the grime-caked glass. Still, over there, I can only run. This side of the world, I can fly.
It’s not easy nor fun, a clammy handed, teeth-clenching tool of the pursued, when nightmares hunt you for bloodsport and you’re the only sacrifice left. You jump, bouncing over and over in the spongy grass until gradually, gravity lets you go. Even then it’s a slow drift unless there’s something to push off of and you’ve gained enough height to fight the currents. Beware the trees, rooftops, icy winds. Keep your eyes forever forward. The times will come, dark shadows yipping and circling below, exhausted legs kicking futilely as you drop, when even flying won’t be enough. Pray for dragons.
The first of many such impulses.
She leans close, nibbling at my ear with her teeth of blue-stained bronze. Her exhalations are yours, milk-sweet, swirling around me as I desperately suck in breath after breath, rubbing your taste against the roof of my mouth. My hands are twitching uselessly, beating a Morse surrender on the air. This semblance of composure is all I can manage. Please, please don’t…
He’s approaching again, all pale lines and grins. A circle of evergreens, a boardroom, the middle of a street, he’s walking around and around in a tightening spiral, watching. Chest sweat-slick, for 350 degrees, I drag my eyes up, ashamed of his attention. He wears antlers this time and like a good hunter, I wait.
What do you drink when there’s no water?
The boy king has left the forest, crown corroding as it hangs from his branch, gemstones tumbling down to be eaten by the black velvet grass. A self-satisfied grumble greets each twinkling rock, the ground has a place for such treasures. Other souvenirs, a pile of bones picked clean and laid out in a secret language by unseen scavengers, are left as a warning in the leafy gloom.
My master crouches over the skeletal lettering, dark hair braided, wrapped around his waist, face composed of razor lines. Resurrection was hard on him; the dried violet of poison is still flaking from his lips and his snow-hued hand trembles as it caresses his bandolier of vials, filled with every deathbringer known to our clan. The lily pad seer, thief of stars, was immune to all of them.
“I was not here,” he says.
“You were dead at the time.”
“I was still close by.”
There’s no argument I can make, the pathways of the White World pull away when I get close, shimmying like quicksilver, laughing with the prankster’s voice. My master is also theirs and he flashes a grin filled with filed teeth. Venom still bubbles in your blood, he signs, there is time yet to save the sky.
No one was happier than I.
In this room, she wanders without worry. The predators are outside, swinging from tree to tree, yammering, hooting laughter, not yet over the thrill of their opposable thumbs. Sometimes, one will overestimate their leap and go crashing down into fragrant grasses dotted with pale green blossoms. The gardener takes very good care of the lawn. Still stunned when the rose vines reach them; to a one, they start shrieking when the thorns indulge in their methodical dismemberment.
Trapped here, with dingy white and gold fleur-de-lis wallpaper, warped wooden floorboards, leaky [yet still impenetrable] windows, she is repulsed by what she sees. The house grumbles along with her. Not always was the world this dangerous, the apes used to be so gentle, the earth stayed under your feet where it damn well belonged. Was she too old-fashioned for this riotous world?
A weak thumping caught her attention – there on the floor, her latest project was slowly bleeding to death. It, he, was staring urgently at her, the whites of his eyes visible all around. Unable to move or speak, it was his heart making the noise. She cursed the house and herself.
“Why do you let me wander away when I’m in the middle of something?” Crouching by the supine body, she stuck the heart with a slender needle and the beating ceased, the man’s face awash with relief.
“Here, next time, *you* remind me,” she said, pulling the mouth open, showing even, yellow teeth. With an expert touch, the tongue was attached and the man – she would have to name him soon – swallowed dryly, spasmodically.
“How is it out there?” he croaked.
“Still a war going on.” She worked swiftly as they talked, soldering nerves, sealing limbs, shoring up the central organs.
“Isn’t that always the way?” He grimaced. “And there go the nerves; I barely felt that. You really are one of the best, aren’t you?”
“I’m integrating muscle control right now,” she said, “I would appreciate it if you didn’t wriggle about. Motion is a privilege, not a right.”
Other than the occasional tick of a fingernail against the floor and the muffled screaming of the apes, there were several minutes of silence in the back bedroom. Memories started to trickle in behind his eyes; there’d be a grandfather clock in the hallway that was always fifteen minutes behind, gun racks in the dining room; his clothing had been washed and pressed and was folded by the door, the door that wasn’t fucking working anymore. With memory came anger. As her careful fingers checked his seams, tested muscles, checked and double-checked synapse responses, he was already sitting up, eyes fixed past her shoulder on the wavy glass window.
“You’re sending me out there again, yeah?” he asked, wiping flecks of dried blood from his chest. She’d really done an incredible job; there were no tremors or gaps in his memory to indicate he’d been dead at all.
“I wish I had a choice.” She looked surprisingly fresh for someone who’d spent the past week and a half in surgery. He paused on his way out to land a sloppy, forceful kiss on her thin smile.
“I’ll be back for you.”
“You always will.”
A little bit of help from my.
Happiness runs away from you. Always, always, over streams, through hedgerows [those things at the ends of fields, she said]. There is no difference between crick and creek, except regional, she said, hair tickling my nose, breathing in the sweat and earth and her. What else is there except her poetry? The sun would remain; the light would be gone.
Spiders weave between the skyscrapers, official gray thoraxes trembling from the rushing wind tunnels. They’ve never fallen but they always look like they’re going to. Older kids will use them for rides between train platforms, clipping onto the d-links riveted into the leg joints and avoiding the webs. Plastic bags, religious pamphlets, pigeons are stuck along the threads, scintillating in the fluorescent light. When the cracks appeared, this was the only solution. They’re suspecting termites.
“Wow, you really don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”
She’s here again, she’s always goddamn here when I’m this tired. The sleep won’t come except in staticky bursts, trapped in a somnabulistic mosh pit, and I’m left dangling at the mercy of my potential selves. Smooth dark hair, crazy grin, a fighter’s stance, this one is very much a charmer and not for the first time, I’m tempted.
“I. I don’t actually have an excuse for you. There’s way too much going on. If you wanted to pull me in a direction right now, go ahead.”
A curb rolls away beneath her feet as she walks in a straight line, arms extended. She thinks airplane noises.
“Fuck them all,” she says. I’m far more adorable when I cuss, surely. “Stupid, self-centered cunts.” I flinch even though it’s one of my favourite words. “They try to screw with everything, make you do what will make them possible.” She hops down, a graceful sweep of the left leg, stopping slightly too close to me. She twists one of my curls between her fingers.
“You’re really burnt out. No one knows what to do right now. Are you going to disappear? Are you going to explode? Are you going to fall down again and refuse all help?”
There’s a couch shaped like a flying swan; comfortable, revolting. I may be sitting on it, but my brain doesn’t want to be.
“The sum of that couch is ‘fabulous’,” she says, “oh. You were just thinking that.”
“I *don’t* get a couch shaped like a swan,” I reply, “I like my current one.”
“No, you’re just distracting yourself. It’s a very good distraction.”
“Why are you flattering me?”
She sighs, plunks down on the floor, rolls her eyes.
“Not everyone is trying to flatter you all the goddamn time. Especially me. There’s something you’re forgetting.”
Her arms are wrapped around her legs. Long black socks. She’s skinnier than I am unless I’m just thinking I’m not.
“You’re okay. You’re always going to be okay. Time is coming back for you. It’s subjective anyway, correct? Stop mourning and wailing for something that isn’t yet. We all hear you when you scream, just…no one but us knows what to do.”
She would hug me if it weren’t so masturbatory.
“Hey, we’re just like everyone else. Not all of us are assholes.”
“Good to know I’m not going to be awful.”
She laughs. I have a wonderful laugh.
“Things are going to be incredible if you let them.”
Will you speak in the language of predators?
He turned to me weeping. The days are too beautiful to stand, he said. Lips caulked shut, the job sloppy around the corner creases, sounds came from a hole in his chest. Sunset-stained clouds hovered nearby; we waved them away like flies and I used my other hand to rub gold dust on his ribs, marveling at freckled constellations.
Crouching – I was too small to kneel – I counted the breaths that vibrated under the skin, one one two, matching mine to thine, sacrum completing the sequence with a taut triangle of threes fives and bone. The trip hadn’t taken long enough to matter, nine years since I’d been near this hill, wondering which memories I’d buried beneath the shivering aspen. They’re an organism, all one thing no matter how far apart they are, he said, even on the other side of the world. Nails long, he raked up and down the trunks, curls of black-edged bark raining, splinters in my hair. This grove is wrapped up in her corpse, I replied, reading the runes cast in scattered twigs, but I’m going to disagree. She doesn’t want us to be here and I wouldn’t want us to be here. We’re not connected anymore.
There’s hair twining up the roots from the freshly-turned loam. Everything is getting darker. He bends over me, antlers scraping against the low-hanging branches, for the first time smiling.