The Wine is Drunk
The wine is drunk, the woman known.
Someone in generous darkness dries
unmanly tears for what’s not found
in flesh, or anywhere. He lies
beside his love, and still alone.
Pride is a lie. His finger follows
eye, nostril, outline of the cheek.
Mortal fatigue has humbled his
exulting flesh, and all he’d seek
in a loved body’s gulfs and hollows
changes to otherness: he’ll never
ravish the secret of its grace.
I must be absent from myself,
must learn the praise love’s waking face,
raise this unleavened heart, and sever
from my true life this ignorant sorrow.
I must in this gross darkness cherish
more than all plenitude the hunger
that drives the spirit. Flesh much perish
yet still, tomorrow and tomorrow.
be faithful to the last, an old
blind dog that knows the stairs, and stays
obedient as it climbs and suffers.
My love, the light we’ll wake to praise
beats darkness to a dust of gold.
- Gwen Harwood
About to post my all-time favourite poem.
The moon is full, and so are my breasts.
The soreness in them, loathed in adolescence, is now a joyous sensation in my experience. It feels natural and grounding. Without it, I would not be reminded that my body obeys the moon and the tides. Without it, I would be plastically adrift, ignorant of the knowledge that my womanhood is inherently bound to all things.
My two fathers each bring me something to read tonight. How fortuitous I am to be humbled thus by these two strong, loving men.
My biological father comes bearing food, wine, and a reading for my creative mind. The article details everyday, non-criminal sociopathy; the dark triad of personality traits. We discuss it enthusiastically over dinner - how the words echo a recent short story I wrote, and what it says about us as people that we so strongly identify with the descriptions. We argue potential narrative plots back and forth, and in the end agree that while I unquestionably inherited my skill with a pen from him, and we both may indeed be (gentle) sociopaths, the two of us are wildly different kinds of writers.
My Stepfather visits quietly in the dusk. He leaves an envelope in the door with my name on it.“This has helped me,” his note is signed with love. I am deeply moved by the gesture, even before my eyes kiss the neatly folded pages. We often talk about Buddhism, he and I. I eyeball my ancient woven hardcover of the eightfold path as I sit down to read before I close my eyes in sleep.
“One of the chief ways we do our grasping is in relationships. This manifests as craving, and can lead to aversion if we feel our craving has been thwarted by the person from whom we’re craving something. If one’s craving is greater than one’s contentment, that colours one’s non-appreciation and rejection of others. There is a sense that the object is something to devour, not to respect and love as an individual.”
“In Buddhism, we say everything is interdependent, we don’t say that you are the victim, we don’t say that others created this for you. Only when you start taking responsibility, can you begin to heal the hurt. Without that, there is always our mind which seeks to scapegoat someone, and is always waiting for someone else to rectify the situation. And so we wait, wait, wait, and how much time is there to wait? There is no time.”
I weep softly as I light a candle, feeling a bittersweet sense of release. The flame flickers under my gaze, and I lament how much of my magick I have wasted in the denial of my spirituality. How much time is there to wait?
When I’m feeling brave, I try to peer deep over the bounds of my mind and soul, and I find with terror that there are no limits.
I recoil hastily into myself, into this shroud of superficiality. I go to sleep, and when I wake, I reassure myself that the pleasant numbness of my existence is okay. That my burning hurt, victimhood, my non-contented craving is just… life itself.
If for nobody but myself, I must learn to take responsibility. To conquer this that sustains me; this oxygen of fear.
There is no time to wait.
When I was too young, I learned the hard way that a man worships nothing more than the ghost of a lover lost. That the woman coldly torn from him is treasured ever after; more than all the flesh he can fuck, all the wealth he can conquer, and all blood he can spill.
And so I became a torn woman; a ghost lost. An immense wealth of pleasure bloodily severed from the hearts of my lovers; ever after treasured.
Ever after, out of reach.
Honestly, I think my arachnid empathy levels are getting a little out of control when on this chilly eve, I make sure to close the bathroom window tightly so that Wonder Spider doesn’t get cold.
It was nice to hear your voice this morning, from whatever vegan cafe you were sitting in, in whatever hippie beach town you’re currently sauntering around, once again searching
for your soul.
I wanted to say something about how fucking gross raw coconut oil is (seriously, I tried a spoonful like you suggested and nearly gagged) but we talked about coffee instead, and that seemed to suffice. I never could drink as many cups as you.
You smiled and it made me smile, and afterward I had this crazy thought that maybe we can be friends. I think I’d like that. I could be horribly, horribly wrong.
If you find one thing in this most recent spring clean of the spirit, I hope it’s the desire to once again pick up your pen. I didn’t hear it directly from them, but I’m sure your words miss you.
Click the button. (Roll the dice.)
Perhaps your reasons were pure.
Perhaps they were calculated.
Perhaps you’ll get laid.
Perhaps you’ll find a friend.
Click the button. (Choose your own adventure.)
Perhaps you’ll find a real friend.
Perhaps you’ll engage competition.
Perhaps it will change your thinking.
Perhaps it will change your life.
Click the button. (A single round in the revolver.)
Perhaps you’ll feel envious.
Perhaps you’ll become obsessed.
Perhaps you’ll seethe, covet and loathe.
Perhaps you’ll unclick, and life will go on just the same.
Click the button. (Spin the cylinder.)
Perhaps you’ve tempted fate.
Perhaps you’re caught in the web of a predator.
Perhaps you’ve found a mirrored self.
Perhaps you’ll be captured; in thrall.
Click the button. (Aim it at your temple.)
Perhaps you are about to be inspired.
Perhaps you’ve found a bedfellow.
Perhaps you won’t feel a thing.
Perhaps you are about to be broken.
Click the button. (Deep breath, now.)
Perhaps you’ll laugh, flirt, and muse.
Perhaps you will stoically, silently admire.
Perhaps you will be kissed by loss.
Or perhaps, you will be
strangled touched cursed blessed by love.
Click the button. (Fire.)
the one who brought you
fighting for breath into this life,
is the also one who can easiest
knock the wind clear from you.
Love in the Fall
I can hear the sounds
of two young people
falling in love
the joyous freefall
of her laughter
cascades down the stairs
as I sit, writing alone
He is wrapping her up
in his warmth,
in a place to feel
safe and exhilarated
trust is a willing blossom;
there is no fear in their fall
I have an obscure memory
of being fearless that way
outside, the wind pelts frigid rain
against my window
and that time seems very,
very long ago
Thank you, mysterious weaver of little blue tags.
Early one morning, in the cool of a new Autumn, a sad, beautiful girl wandered alone in the woods.
The chill frosted Tabitha’s cheeks a soft, pliant shade of pink as she buried her hands in her skirts to keep them warm. Her task was to gather mushrooms, and she bore it the best she could, her young body aching as it was with bruised tributes of her Stepmother’s hatred.
Tabitha was kneeling next to a thick tree trunk, hands busily working to unearth a crop of mushrooms, when a large black crow appeared in the sky.
She marveled at its magnificent wingspan as it descended lower and lower, finally coming to land beside her wicker basket. The force of his landing fanned the fragrant woodland air onto Tabitha’s face, as she gasped at his closeness and boldness. The black crow hopped a few steps closer to the girl, never taking his gaze off her. He was huge, larger than any bird she had ever seen up close. She stared into his tiny black beads of eyes, mystified at the shrewdness she saw there.
As he regarded her, head cocked slightly to the side, Tabitha recalled an old proverb about black crows. Legend said that they were messengers of death. Or was it messengers of divine providence? She couldn’t remember. Surely, a black crow had delivered a message of the Great Flood to Noah in the bible. It was a warning; a message of salvation. Perhaps, she mused, this crow was bringing her a message from the gods?
The silent exchange between girl and crow continued, taking on an otherworldly intensity. She almost expected him to open his beak and talk to her. “Will you tell me a story, Crow?” Tabitha said to the creature, her soft voice startling in the stillness of the wood. He blinked at her quickly, three times.
In her next breath, she began remembering a tale from her childhood. It was a German folktale about seven boys who were turned into crows, and the younger sister who set alone out to search for them. She recalled one ghastly image from the story most of all; that of the sister cutting off her own finger to fashion the bone into a key, which released her brothers from their captivity inside the Glass Mountain.
“Are you here for my finger, you black-hearted beast?” she giggled to the darkly feathered bird, who cocked his head quizzically in reply.
Tabitha had once seen a man’s hand severed clean from his wrist in the marketplace, as punishment for stealing. The bones had looked like perfect white spheres in the midst of the dark red flesh, before the blood had surged forth and enveloped everything else.
Shocking, she had thought, that underneath our skin we all look like raw cuts of beef, and nothing grander than that.
She brushed the earth from her hands and regarded one of her slender, white fingers closely. She would part with it for her own freedom in a heartbeat, but what about the freedom of a beloved sibling? Perhaps if Tabitha had not been born an only child, she’d have an answer to that question.
Instead, she was born to a doting, if not very bright, father and a vain and disinterested mother. Her mother had stayed long enough to nurse Tabitha out of infancy, before leaving the village with a troupe of traveling actors. The girl only remembered snatches of her; golden hair and a laugh that sounded like windchimes caught in a hurricane.
Eventually her father had remarried in hopes of finding a maternal figure for his sweet little Tabitha. Unfortunately for them both, his choice of women was even more abysmal the second time around. His new wife was a cruel sadist, who quickly developed a sharp and all-consuming desire for the torment of her stepdaughter.
Tabitha snapped out of her reverie, knowing that if she was late home she’d be beaten worse than she had been yesterday. “I have to go,” she whispered to the crow. “Fly away for me. Far, far from here.” The strange bird watched her leave, her scared, pretty little face turning back several times to see if he were still there.
Later that night, as she cooked a mutton stew for dinner, Tabitha realised that her father was not coming home. He must have opted to escape the hostility of their cottage for the local tavern, instead. Wracked with guilt and misery, he’d been poisoning himself with ale more and more these days.
“Serve me quickly, stupid girl,” her Stepmother snapped. “You’ve kept me waiting long enough.”
Tabitha swiftly ladled the stew into her Stepmother’s bowl and brought it to the table, set for one. As she placed it before her with a shaking left hand, her right hand was grasped brutally by much stronger, sharper fingers. The girl stifled a cry as the woman twisted her wrist back painfully, pulling her close to her face, mangled into a snarl.
“Don’t you dare keep me waiting next time.”
She released Tabitha suddenly, causing her to stumble back from the table and almost fall over. The girl recovered her footing and limped back to the kitchen to the worn chair facing the wall that she was required to sit in while her Stepmother ate her meals. She stared at the wall silently as her heartbeat slowly subsided.
She could hear the rhythmic sound of her tormentor’s chewing, smell the delicious, hearty aroma of the stew, and her stomach growled miserably. She’d be lucky to get a hunk of stale bread before she was sent to bed this evening.
Alert as she was to her senses, the sound of a sharp intake of breath, followed by a distinct “aaack” sound startled Tabitha. She risked turning her head to discover the source of the disruption. Her Stepmother sat at the table bolt upright, hands desperately clutched to her throat, eyes opened wide in fright. Heaving, guttural noises escaped from her, sounds that possessed no air to soften them.
Stepmother was choking.
Tabitha watched in fascination as the woman’s body became a primal thing, entirely a slave to its will to keep on breathing, keep on living. She pushed out from the table with flailing legs and fell to the floor, writhing and ripping at her chest and throat, tearing the fine fabric of her gown. She fought hard for breath - perhaps the only valiant thing Tabitha had ever seen her do.
The violent bodily spasms eventually became less and less energetic, as her Stepmother’s reddened face began to turn a bluish shade. The dying woman fixed her eyes firmly on the girl’s in a silent plea, reaching her arms out toward her chair in the kitchen.
Tabitha sat, frozen.
Stepmother’s arms finally fell to the floor beside her, her tongue lolling slightly out of her mouth. The girl watched as one second there was an ounce of life left in her eyes and the next, it was gone. The silence in the room in that moment hit Tabitha like a slap in the face, breaking her trance.
Her Stepmother was dead, and she’d done not a single thing to help her.
But what had she choked on? Tabitha had deboned the mutton thoroughly before cooking it. Moving slowly, her soft steps danced across the floor to where her Stepmother’s body lay, glazed eyes open. The woman looked malevolent even in death.
Tabitha knelt down and reached the fingers of her right hand into the woman’s mouth, pushing deeper past the back of her throat until she felt something hard. It took a while to loosen it, embedded as it was in the flesh of the throat. Finally, she pulled it clear and out of the mouth of the dead woman.
Tabitha regarded the object closely. It was the colour of ivory, slickened with saliva. The shape of it didn’t make sense at first, yet as she handled it a strange feeling of deja vu struck her, hard.
“No, no, no…” Tabitha groaned, dropping the object to the floor. “It can’t be!”.
She felt nauseous as she peered down at it again. Yes, there it was. Plucked straight from her morning’s morbid reverie.
A long, slender piece of bone, carved into the sharp shape of a key.
Slowly, Tabitha forced herself to look at her left hand. Her empty stomach retched violently when she saw it. There, where her ring finger should be, was nothing. Nothing but a fresh wound, neatly cleaned and sealed.
The crow waited on the windowsill, watching as Tabitha sobbed.
He waited until the moment she gathered her wits and hardened in resolve, dragging the body to the large fireplace and heaving it in there, replacing the logs and kindling around it, lighting the fire. He waited as she observed the flesh char down until it was nothing but ash. He waited as she swept the hearth and straightened the furniture. He waited until she walked back the kitchen, and sat down silently.
The black crow waited until he saw the secret smile form on Tabitha’s lips, and only then did he stretch his wings and fly.
Far, far away.
I shouldn’t ever go back and read you,
or read us, as we were
but I did today
cringing at my saccharine naivety
but mainly saddened
at the promise of love
wasted by fear
Hell hath no fury like Inspiration scorned
To write, I have to bleed.
(This makes me do stupid things like fall in love with somebody for an hour.)
Inspiration’s sharp fingernails are necessary for this bleed/write equation, and she comes to me only on her terms. Foolishly, I go out hunting her, putting a target on her back and pelting her with ink filled bullets when I catch sight of her around the corners of the curvature of the earth. My perverse Bedford Level experiment.
She will crawl under the table and make love to me when I’m in the middle of a meeting, because that’s the kind of cheeky shit that turns her on. I’m not hearing a word my boss is saying, and agreeing to take on ridiculous tasks because I can’t kick her away, not yet, she’s giving me something and I’m so close, oh my fucking god… I’m going to write a sonnet when this meeting is finally over.
Inspiration will get sulky with me over some imagined slight, and I won’t hear from her for days. Instead of apologising, I get stubborn and go drinking with Procrastination. He’s got a bad rep, but he’s actually a really fun guy, when you get to know him.
She’s thrilled when I’m infatuated, but loses interest very quickly whenever I’m shacked up. She’ll collude in writing to snare the objet d’affection but she soon grows bored of the same subject over and over. She’ll grab her backpack in the middle of the night and sneak off to shag her way around Europe for months.
I don’t mind. As soon as the first wave of heartache hits, she always comes back.
We’ve had a rough road, her and I. The lack of her drives me to despair at times, but her absence can be less painful than the times she kicks in my door, hot and full of fury, using me up in a fit of fire and leaving me a wrecked shell of a writer, and a woman.
Then there are days like today, when she comes to me bare-faced and kind, kneeling at my feet and I’m so moved all I can do is crack open and let her take over me.
Inspiration is smoke tendrils spiraling in a draught, belonging to nobody. When she deigns be drawn into these lungs and breathed out as words, she humbles me.
The saving grace of sex memory, although it can haunt you to distraction, is that eventually it fades. No longer are you disappointed every time you go to bed with somebody and the chemistry isn’t quite there, (mainly because you’re still pathetically longing for the one that used to get you off just the right way).
Actually, the fade is but a small mercy. The saving grace is this: the next good lover can literally take the memory of the last one… and fuck. it. out.
I’m not feeling well, my darling
if you are indeed mine, or a darling
I’m cool of demeanour, yet today my skin sizzles
to the touch and my brain has melted
like a storybook witch or a Dali clock
clock duck clot
(autocorrect can make sexting so awkward
I called to tell you that I switched banks
“I feel ADULT,” I said
“I am BANKING.”
adjusting my top hat,
as I inspected my pocket watch
with my monocle.