I. the world ends softly—
the sudden absence of answer.
II. the sky burns in pieces—Beijing first,
then Bangkok. The news is full
of men and women in surgical masks,
suitcoats rimed ash-white.
Children are being kept inside, it informs,
but you catch round faces at the edge
of camera frames, small noses pressed
(how to explain Armageddon
to those little grigori, wide-eyed and guiltless?)
your town gets hit between Nashville
and Kansas City, a few chill-sharp hours
before dawn. you stand in the gathering white,
death dusting your eyelashes.
it’s getting harder to breathe.
III. the cities flicker, fall dark. The nights
become silvercold bright; the milky way
a Jacob’s Ladder—ascending, ascending,
and impassible. Sometimes you see dark shapes
pass across the constellations, slipping
from empty to emptiness.
Their wings blot out the stars.
IV. you forget how to sing.
you forget what it was for.
V. you count your ribs one morning—trace
the crescive struts of them with your
ever-lengthening nails. There is blood
in your teeth you did not put there; war rides
a burned-out red mustang, and his mouth
tastes like the wrong end of a bullet. The pale rider
sits on the end of your bed at night, carving
and sealing shem into your skull, whispering,
the harvest is past.
Under the bloated sun, you tear down the last gods.
It is not enough, this slow monstering—
you have remembered the apple
still lodged in your throat and
you are not saved.
VI. the angels come too late,
feathers crawling with mites and eyes flat
as snakes’. The smell of ozone lingers
in their skin, and glory glory glory sounds
like a punchline.
They promise altars and arks;
the hollow earth, the ascending light.
You will be gold, and gold again.
You are not surprised when their throats
are torn open, revealed to be hollow.
VII. it is cold here at the end of all ages.
THOSE WHO HAUNT THE EARTH: RUSALKAAccording to Slavic folklore, a rusalka is the spirit of a young women who was murdered in or close to a lake or river. They appear as beautiful young women with bright green eyes who try to lure men and children into the water, where they will drown them. Their shrill laughter is known to be deadly to humans. A rusalka can leave the water at night to sing in trees or join other rusalki to dance in the local meadows, but she cannot live long on dry land. However, rusalki are kept safe with magical combs, which give them the power to conjure water when they need it. According to some legends, should a rusalka’s hair dry out, she will die. A rusalka’s fate can also be undone by avenging her death.
Before you fuck up and call her anything less than her name, before you grab her by the arm you need to know the trigger that you are pulling at. You need to know that the safety is never on. You need to know her history before you tell me that this isn’t my business. You need to know that her history is my history. See, she and I, we come from the tribe of raw knuckled little girls who call our father by their first names and wear their mothers like bruise coloured war paint under eye. We grew thick skin before we grew permanent teeth. We learned to piece together our own families in the backyards of rented duplexes where we promised plastic faced babies better things in soothing tones that we mimicked from TV. We do not have daddy issues even though our daddy’s have issues. We have piercing eyes and promises to keep. We grew up to be nomads surveying domestic war zones with black eyeliner binoculars, always refusing to camouflage. We threw our heads back and laughed at oncoming explosions, never flinched, absorbing shrapnel, never let them see us cry.
We do not dream of boys who will save us from towers. We dream of boys with courage caked under their fingernails. Boys with hands rough enough to wipe metal tears from our faces but warm enough to mold them into stars. Boys with vertebrae strong enough to lock with ours so they can sleep sitting back to back with us and keep watch. And these are the boys, these are the boys who will find love under our armor. These are the boys who will find that we love selectively but we love fiercely. These are the boys who will learn that we love in ways that leave claw marks down the baseboard before we ever let go.
So do not think she doesn’t know how you fear her absence - you should. Your cage is not stronger than her will or her smile. Do not think you are good enough to tame her. You aren’t. And do not think you are the first to try because I have already closed your eyes and crossed your arms before your body hit the floor. And you think she deserves better than you. You are right. So be better than you.
Be thankful that she knows your name and be careful never to forget hers.
I was never a straight shooter with you,
so I’m tell you now
while I’ve got this strange bravery messing my chest:
I love you like Mexican wrestlers love their outfits.
I miss you like graffiti misses clarity.
I want to crack open for you like a sinner on Sunday.
When I see you kiss another woman
my arm hairs form armies of Elliot Smiths
sifting the wind for some soft suicide song.