Come With Me And Be My Love

for Ash and Mira

Oh, best beloved!

I remember, as I remember all things, the day you carved my eyes from the rock, the clean crisp break between darkness and light, prised apart by the insistent tip of your chisel. I had felt you before then, the nearness of your hands, the pleasant heft of your hammer walking across my heavy weight of skin, but could only picture you by what I had known: darkness, heat, the slow grind of ages. But you, my love, were so much more than that, so antic, so fevered.

I drank you in, all of me, as you pulled the gloves from my fingers and freed my legs from the rock, eyes and skin. Your curled hair, your calloused hands, your engrained squint, my powder thick upon you. I remember the changing light. I remember you, asleep in the corner of the studio, tossing uneasily beneath a thin blanket as winter crept below the door. I would have gone to you then, stilled you, if I could.

Ah, my love, how wonderful it is to have a doting mother! Patient earth, gentle earth, who hears all prayers, who hides all sins! That final moment, my mouth fully curled, half-opened, your tools still against my cheek, when you lifted your eyes to mine, shy and hesitant, frozen now forever! Winter will not stoop so close above you now, nor hunger hollow your cheeks, no more than mine. How lucky we are, you and I, to spend all eternity thus, in rapturous contemplation, until time and weather wear us both to sand.


Some time later.

He hasn’t been across the ocean in a thousand years. He hasn’t seen the desert or the poles in centuries. His latitude is getting smaller and smaller; he’s not sure why, exactly, but his working theory is there isn’t anyone on the other side of the world anymore. He stopped knowing what anyone was saying a few centuries back, so it’s all theoretical at this point. He feels weird about it, all things considered. He’s been shot, stabbed, imprisoned, set on fire, attacked by dogs, poisoned, drowned, beheaded once, hanged a half-hundred times, driven out by stones and dogs and broken glass, but still. Not mournful, exactly.

The world, or what’s left of it that’s available to him, is green and vibrant and alive. A riot of vegetation slowly swallowing what had been exquisite cities; the algal power cells have cracked and spread green and humming over pitted steel. It’s beautiful, in an uncaring way he finds poignant — these too were driven forth, once upon a time. Birds perch on him as he pushes his way through the conqueror woods, and speak to him in yet another language he no longer remembers, of news he doesn’t need.


War is Fought by the Poor

for Amy

It is fall and the Ladies are alone with themselves again, alone in a half-empty city with distant reports of war. It is cold, and they have swaddled themselves in lengthy coats and sturdy gloves; good wool and strong leather, materials that last.

Each morning, some few of the Ladies rise from the windows and take flight to the front. They perch in the trees overlooking the battle lines, long coats hanging down, watching owlishly through their lorgnettes as the war moves back and forth, moving now six feet this way, now seven feet that.

They take to the skies again when the shadows have tinted the leaves gray and cross over to the other side. Their knives of glass are sharp, sharp; their coats sweep their feet from the ground. They visit the enemy tents in the evening, leave some piece of their own silence behind, here and there.

They like moonless nights, and full moon nights. The air is chill, the sky is wide, the Ladies are free-moving.

Home again, they shiver in the cafes, wrap bloodless hands around watery coffee, tell tales of what they have seen. The war continues.

Gods in the High Hills

Above Troy, above Jericho, above Amba Aradem, above Tumebamba:

Mambres, the tourist: “Good movement on the southern flank. Don’t think it’ll matter, though.”

Jannes, the scholar: “No, certainly not. They’ll be overrun. It’s written so.”

“Oh, good show! Bravely done! Is there anything we can do for that one?”

“Maybe on the margins; they’ll be dead in three days, or four. The specific timeline is unclear.”

“I hope we’re getting all this.”

“I think so. It’s always hard to tell, at the moment. Can’t always say what’ll get recorded, and what won’t.”

“Well, cover them with glory today, until they break. Maybe that’ll help shine a light.”

They watch in silence for a spell, hair and beards grown together, each the other’s sofa. The sun, despite everything, moves across the sky in its accustomed track. The familiar stars wheel beneath their feet.

Cannibal Teeth

The slithery homely hiss of knife against sharpener, the lingering smell of onions frying in hot fat, as he makes dinner. Night falling on the city, night creeping up the walls of his building, night peeking in through his windows.

How long has it been since he saw the stars? Every night a red sky, washed clean, changeable moon rolling through an unmarked field. Meat the same internal red as the sky, warm on the outside and pleasantly cool in the center.

He keeps the TV on for the company, a low rumble of voices, clamor, sirens, warnings. Fires are burning in the poor parts of town. He can trace the red trail of the engines draw near the fire, then fall back, letting the fires spread.

It’s been hot lately, so unbearably hot.