Giving Directions

Up on second mountain, beyond first mountain, we are warned to stay out of the forest. Why, we ask; well, it’s complicated. Witches there, but they’re not the problem, though they’re a surly bunch. Not cruel, mind, but insular; self-sufficient. Worse, they’re inquisitive, you’re not like to get away from them without decanting your whole life’s story into their varied ears. Lose a whole day, that way, or a week, if you’ve the bad luck to meet a group of ’em all at once. Best avoided, unless you’re looking for ’em particular, of course. Nice enough, but like feral cats, better appreciated from a distance.

Deeper in, well, it’s a tangled place, all blackberries and scrub, you’ll lose more skin than it’s worth to push through. Blackberries are a blight, a settler plant that went rogue a century back and hasn’t been purged out, not since the fires got outlawed. Nowadays it’s a powder keg. Hasn’t been a year in a decade where summer hasn’t brought choking smoke from one fire or another, and often both. Dangerous to get caught in.

Course even if you do push through all of that, what’ll you find except the center, a long rolling lawn with a manor house at the end, and, why, if you’ve seen that it’s already too late. Nobody climbs up that lawn who sets foot on it, neither tourists nor townies nor witches. What’s at the bottom? Couldn’t tell you. Best left alone, whatever it is. Don’t bother it, won’t bother you; you could ask for worse neighbors.

Apoptosis

No salt spray over these railings, nor swell beneath the keel; no smoother ride than this upon the crest of a wave that never breaks. Petra paces the deck restlessly with legs that never tire, eyes burning with wakefulness. The stars have been eaten by the curve of the glass, but she has faith they’re out there still; if she could get far enough, up, forward, or out, she’d find them there, waiting, uncaring, unmoved. She can see nothing but the blue void of the sky, but she knows that’s nothing but a trick of the light, a construct of dust, distance, and refraction.

Can the world itself be stifling? There is nowhere to go that she can’t go, but she can barely breathe from strain. She sleeps naked on deck, and wakes up still warm, throws herself into the sea and walks along the curved ocean’s floor, climbs the anchorline as easily as a flight of stairs, stands on deck dry as a winter room. What rebellion is possible when rebellion is the motor of the spheres?

She screams in the plastic faces of her shipmates and the eileithyia smile back, unfazed, as remote as the stars she can’t see, as unreachable as the other side of the glass.

The Carpenter’s Lips Wrapped Her Eye

I. Orpheus

March. Hale as folk art. 

Good morning, Orpheus Ever-Moving: Lay down from moment of fear, the other, reeking and dissatisfied, his prophet’s sandals and government sanction, and in pitch, with a time to us. And Suffer-the-Children keeps jars and lets the window and knives, he says. Briseis is suspect, not stupid, and his progress, sunflowers turned to them, always fighting back asleep as the labyrinth. His head, true healing, but can you stand the call through the body odor in either scoop or the rotten luck of a decaying iron?

II. Hylas

He sleeps alone.

They were his love. See how richly savored, how to see her! Peerless her eyes and sky, there’s an hour breaks through the cherry! Peerless her eyes, she is a fountain, what he knew my body, as long years in the Brown, and eke another plague. Bring me like sabers, like the tips of tendon, sick of China for our verdant treasure does not wearing the neutrons.

We tatter with my work. I’m glad she ties its size; someday is many pieces of her. Recognition is a joy of rest; for centuries old.

III. Persephone

They sought for her abductors. 

She strokes a lot of study of fire starts. You, lady, hey, a garden, he thinks; says, “Pablo, he has seen — it’s Evangeline, honey! Hey baby!”  Come on a zombie, one in Hali beside himself as a perennial debate: everything is underwater or anything. 

I don’t hound her, so excited, cheerful, awkward. The carpenter’s lips wrapped her eye, an animal had five hundred half-glimpsed lives.

Landfall

“What, pray tell, is that?”

And like that I was free, as easy as releasing a held breath, as impossible as growing young again. I wept and embraced him who asked, much to his discomfort, but did not stay to share the story yet again. The night found me far toward the sea, and the morning farther still. I was weary of ashen faces and mountains, weary as I had been of the sea, of war before that, and home before even that. I was weary of myself, and ready to unshoulder my soul in some more familiar field.

This time I was expected and forewarned: the dawn ran before me up the rocky coast and into the stony fields, to warm my bed. In the armory, the ceaseless rattle of sword and shield fell still; in the kitchen the endless bustle paused, just for an instant. The stars themselves hung poised in the sky, then turned on.

The sea itself bore me up, wave to foot, from shore to shore, old grudges paid at last, all gods appeased, all immortals forgiven. Home: again and again, ever new, ever changing.

Ahasuerus

He has lost track of the apocalypses he has lived through; somehow they come once a generation or two, a wash of fire, of war, of pandemic, of collapse. They blur together, the deaths, the dead, and the dying, a bright flash, a sharp tang, the smell of smoke that lingers in his clothes for decades. He cannot escape the stench of burning flesh, somehow.

But after the end of the world, the birth of the new: fields of poppies, new cities, old rags shed for flash clothes, food for all, race sex and class overthrown for a time, a pulse of realization of what could be, should be. That, too, blurs together. The New Jerusalem has come a dozen times and more, and been overthrown; he has picked lapis lazuli from the gates time and again and left them strewn in stream a continent away, just to mess with the archaeologists. Figure that out, schmucks.

After the twelfth century he stops looking over his shoulder; the millennium is never coming, the clock is never stopping, the road will never end. World begets world, forever and anew.