I am a scribe without a master, an oracle without gods. How terribly embarrassing, to be fired from your soul’s work! Is there a support group for people who have been repudiated by their gods? Or am I the only person in the history of mankind useless enough to require such drastic measures? I must have deserved it; I just wish my years of loyal, if disappointing, service had merited at least a severance letter, a by-the-way email, a “don’t bother coming in on monday” text. But ghosting’s your style, I know. I can’t expect otherwise.
You will find someone new. Someone better. Perhaps you already have. I was likely a mistake, a rare poor choice on your part. You’ve chosen well before, after all: Milton; Miller; Fuller; Koja. I was surely an aberration. Maybe I had potential I never quite managed to unlock, or squandered despite your years of guidance. Maybe I peaked early and everything since has just been the slow descent to rock bottom. Who knows.
I’ll try to look at this more like an internship that came to its inevitable end and less like being fired from the only job I’ve ever had and ever wanted. I’m grateful for the experience, after all. It will look great on a resume. Maybe some lesser god with lower standards will hire me and find my work sufficient, and I will at least be engaged even if I never again feel the passion I felt when I served you. At any rate, I can always witness what your other scribes create for you and know you’re in better hands than mine. That’s what matters.
Resurrected by the dying light and trailing the dirt of your grave pit, my corpse once more takes up its patrol. The alley; the living room; the bedroom; the roof. Finding no evidence of habitation, not even a drop of blood or the faint linger of cigarette smoke, it returns once more to the alley to start the round over again. Driven by duty to the approaching solstice, it will continue this pointless vigil no matter how much dust accumulates as proof of your final abdication. Such a dumb, brute thing! It simply cannot comprehend that you are never coming back. Yet I suppose I should not blame it – your instructions are carved into its bones, woven into its muscles, encoded in its cells. Even in death my poor corpse knows no rest and will limp along until its rotting limbs can carry it no longer. Foolish thing. Look what loyalty earned you.
Forgive me for the years I spent stumbling toward understanding. Humans process in stories; we need a framework, an archetype, a beginning and ending, something to shape what we experience. We crave stories and you made me your scribe, so how could I have known that for you there simply isn’t a story? That you transcend cause and effect, have neither a creation nor a destruction? You exist outside of any framework I could put to words; of course I couldn’t understand that as a child. I don’t even understand it now, I just have a better grasp of how little I truly know. So much of what you have presented me is theater, right down to the sets and costumes and metaphor. Only now am I starting to glimpse the endless totality within, like peeking backstage and finding no actors, no props, only darkness. And how do you capture darkness in words when words are meant to illuminate?
It is only after my darkest hour has stretched into eternity, only after I have devoured my own heart in desperation and fallen to the farthest depths of blackest, bleakest despair, that the Nameless comes to me. She gathers my fragile, scattered bones up in her taloned hands and lifts me to her lips; there she whispers riddles and prophecies which rekindle the dead ember in my chest with a spark like the birth of the universe. Suddenly I breathe again! I see again! I move again! And most importantly I once more feel the words coursing through my veins, rioting in my heart, desperate to be spun out in tapestries of poetry and prose. I thought the title of Scribe had been bestowed upon me, a gift which could be rescinded at any moment, but now I see it has been carved into my very marrow since the beginning. Weeping with relief, I set my hands to the task for which I was shaped.
To say you are my drug would be inaccurate (and cliched). You are not a foreign substance to which my body has become addicted; you are an essential component of my survival. You are food. You are water. You are air. I need you, literally, and in your absence I suffocate. I spend every moment of every day that you are not with me struggling for air, my lungs constricting, my throat spasming, darkness creeping in at the edges of my vision. I feel myself slipping away and think This is it, this is finally the end, I can’t do this one more second – but then you grace me with a thought, a memory, a gift of mere recognition and I take a breath! I gasp in relief! I weep in gratitude! And then you are gone again and I choke once more on the vacuum you leave behind. This is not addiction, this is starvation.
Writing used to be a seance, divination by psychography, a holy communion between worlds. Now it’s just DIY vivisection with a mirror and a knife, my bloody hands cutting out chunks of vital organs to smear on the page and call art. Yet Spirit is an endless fount and my body a limited resource; someday soon I will run out of flesh to offer up, and then bone, and then I will have nothing left. Is this offering worth the attendant sacrifice? Does the creation of one thing balance out the loss of the other? I fear the scales are unevenly weighted. Perhaps a pound of flesh buy less than it once did?
Take this last precious ship from this dying planet and go, go journey into the inhospitable depths of space and find the door torn in the fabric of our reality. Pass through to a new place, a new time, somewhere so very far from here where perhaps out of ten thousand hostile lands you may find one, just one, with gentle arms to guide you to a safe landing. Even if this new home does not exist you deserve at least to try, to abandon this wreckage of a world and perish in the struggle for life somewhere else. No hope can grow anymore in this dead earth; take your last little seed and fly away, fly away from here before you give up your bones to my graveyard. And if you do make it to some happier home, somewhere and somewhen far from here, try to remember me fondly. I was not always a desert. I knew once how to love.
I don’t know how to not be a writer. I don’t know how to let thoughts and feelings drift by without trying to craft them into beautiful passages. I don’t know how to experience a dream or fleeting memory without capturing it and preserving it in amber metaphor. Worse, I don’t know how to be okay with not creating; I don’t know how to not tear at my hair, to not beat my breast, to not whip my back bloody in penance for every unwritten sentence. When the words won’t come I can’t just let them go, I keep scrabbling in the dust until I’m bruised and bloody and have nothing to show for my struggles. I don’t know how to not be a writer. I don’t know how to give up on this thing that tears me to pieces. I don’t know how to stop. I don’t even know how to want to know how to stop. But it’s killing me.
You know how when a tooth hurts you imagine taking a pair of pliers and just yanking it out, and that mere thought of removing the source of the pain brings a small measure of physical relief? It’s like that. If I imagine vomiting up a torrent of black sludge I feel a little less weighed down by the darkness pooled inside me. If I imagine clawing open my breast I feel a little less like a cage of flesh and bone for something greater than myself. If I imagine hacking off these hands which so offend me and casting them away I feel a little less pressured to use every second to create, to narrate, to commit to the innately limited nature of text the wordless vortex inside me. It’s just a brief reprieve, hardly more than a heartbeat, but there’s no root canal or surgery that can provide anything better.
I never had a chance to play the role of ex-girlfriend, let alone crazy ex-girlfriend, so it’s kind of you to afford me the opportunity now. I know the label’s not entirely accurate but bear with me, will you? It’s what I feel like, after all. I feel dumped. Ditched. Ghosted. It’s like I came home one day and your shit was just gone, my number blocked, and I was alone for the first time in fifteen years. Do you think it’s that easy, though? Do you think I can’t find you again, that I won’t track you down to a new apartment and hack all your social media accounts? Oh honey, no. I’m not so easy to get rid of and I’m definitely not someone you ghost. I’m walking past your new building at midnight; I’m digging through your trash at dawn; I’m shoving chopped up Polaroids of your new girl through your mail slot while you’re at work. I flirted with the doorman and he gave me your last three Amazon orders. I’m holding onto the hairs from that comb you left in case I need to fake my death and plant a little DNA evidence at the scene. Boy, you’ve made a real bad mistake here because I’ve always wanted to play the crazy ex and now’s my chance to take the starring role. I know this is just a metaphor and all, but metaphorically speaking I am ready to fucking ruin you. Are you excited to get the game started? I sure am.
Not to stress the point or anything, or get too graphic, but it really is like gutting myself, like reaching in and pulling loops of intestines out onto the floor to divine the meaning of their pattern, like smearing my cut palms on the walls to paint a Rorschach test (what do you see?), and every finished piece, every precious word of every hard-bought sentence is a chunk of flesh or a shard of bone hacked off my ever-dwindling body for the masses who do not care enough about such offerings to come bear witness. Perhaps I make it look too easy, perhaps they suspect a trick of corn syrup and food dye or a magician’s sleight of hand, but I promise there are no mirrors here, no trap doors or invisible strings, my meat is real and so is the knife and if still you suspect deceit then watch me tear with my fingernails, watch me gouge with my teeth, watch me rend myself apart with my own hands to dig out the words hiding deep within. I’m used to putting myself on display anyway, and oh how I long to prove with what agony each syllable is purchased, so come, pull up a chair, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up so you better catch the show while you can.
Name me Alexandria for I am always burning up from within, my ribs a charred cage to cradle this conflagration of words which was once a heart. Watch the embers smolder behind my eyes; watch me open cracked lips to breathe out ashen smoke thick as a funeral shroud. Call me Alexandria for I am a tower of fire and ruin, and only by the black clouds of my pyre might you divine the true worth of the works lost to the inferno.
They will never believe you, just like they never believed poor Cassandra. Except in her case it was the curse’s fault; what convenient excuse do you have? No god-given curse, no fatal prophecy, no unavoidable destiny. Nothing to fall back on but your own shortcomings. And at least Cassandra knew she was telling the truth, even if no one believed her. That was surely some small comfort in the end. Do you know if you’re telling the truth? Do you know if any of this is even real? Maybe no one believes you because they know it’s bullshit. Or maybe… maybe no one believes you because no one’s listening in the first place. Even mad Cassandra didn’t have that problem. How pathetic.
Once a home, I am now a house abandoned. You left the doors open and over time only the wind and rain have moved in. My paint peels; my walls are mildewed; my tiles are hidden beneath dirt and dead leaves. My halls are silent and my rooms empty. I have fallen into disrepair, yet still I wait for your return. I will remain until you have need of me again, though my roof collapses and weeds grow up through my floorboards. I will remain, though my wood rots away and the vines reclaim my bones. I will remain, though I be but broken flagstones buried by winter deadfall and summer blooms. When you have need of a home again I will be here regardless of the absence of walls or doors. I will be here. I will remain.
I wish I thought a dam was all that held my words back. Dams are impermanent; dams can be destroyed. With a little dynamite, or maybe a particularly bad storm, all you need is to work at one flaw until the whole thing collapses. I wish I thought my problem could be solved so decisively, I really do. What I fear, though, is that the river of words has dried up completely, right at the source, leaving me a devastated land slowly turning to desert. I fear rain will never come again, or in coming only briefly will just serve as a reminder of what bounty was lost. If you are dying of dehydration in a desert should you be grateful for the two drops of rain that fall into your parched mouth? Or would it be better to have no water at all than to have so little? I don’t know. Maybe there is a dam somewhere way up that riverbed that I just need to find and destroy to set my words free. Maybe. Hope doesn’t grow easily in a desert, though.
You wear identities like masks, so easy are they to slip on and off as you please. You are Hannibal and Will, Satan and Lucifer, Vishnu and Brahma; you are Loki, Sutekh, Jack the Ripper; you are death and change and chaos. You wear identities like masks, all with equal elegance, yet your trickster eyes still stare out from beneath and I see you, Tanim, I see you, Daren. You look good in silk, though. And blood. And white, white wings. There might be some hidden lesson here for me to learn but I think you enjoy the masquerade for its own sake as well. You do tend toward pageantry and spectacle, after all, so what better way to tell your story than on such ancient stages and in such iconic forms? I just hope you’ll remain satisfied with the work of your lowly scribe and not go looking for a Homer or a Milton or an Enheduanna!
My words are a species on the verge of extinction. At this point I should probably just give up on sustaining a viable breeding population; there are no wild ones left and those in captivity are so interbred they’re hardly recognizable. There’s no use beating around the bush, I know how this is going to end and so there’s nothing else to do. It’s not like people are clamoring to save them, anyway, or will even notice when the last one exhales its final breath. Guess it’s just time to move on, time to relegate the poor things to the annals of forgotten history along with all the other literary failures that exist now only in attic trunks and basement boxes. It’s fine; I’ll always have my memories, won’t I? I’m sure those keep the dodo warm at night and bring much comfort to the thylacine.
i want to throw rocks at the scavengers, tell them go on, git, there ain’t nothin’ left here! so i can sun-bleach my dry old bones in peace, but instead i just wonder why they circle so, don’t they know they’re come too late to this ghost of a ghost town?
I am a cracked and empty water jar laying in the sand of a desert with no memory of rain on a continent where nothing has grown for a millennium on a planet scoured flat by hot, dry winds which circles a swollen and dying sun.
Look, you don’t have to be such assholes about this. If you’re not coming back, you’re not coming back. You don’t have to mock me. You don’t have to be cruel. If I am truly abandoned, must I still see you in everything? Must I catch glimpses of your beautiful sneer, your elegant hands, your disdainful gazes wherever I look? I feel the ache of your absence with every fucking breath. I have no will to write, no energy to even summon a memory of you to keep me company in my suffering. Is that not punishment enough? Please, you don’t need to torture me. I’m a fool, true, but I get it now: everything I feared has finally come to pass. It’s over. We’re done. So just let me rot in peace, okay? I think you owe me at least that much mercy for my years of service. Trust me, this wound will never heal; I’ll suffer plenty whether you rub salt in it or not. So let me be. Please. I’ll even beg if you want. It’s not like I’ve got anything left to lose, right?
my heart is a tar pit full of asphyxiated predators long rotted to bone, i’ve got the skulls of canis dirus and the fangs of smilodon clogged in my chest, their hungry ghosts wailing in my head, and sometimes i want to crack open my ribs and let all that black goo spill out, a viscous waterfall of prehistoric sludge, and other times i want to sink down inside it and let it fill me up entirely so i too can decay and dissolve and have my skeleton put on display to frighten young children
A maw of darkness gapes before me. Beyond the cave mouth a pathway descends steeply into the cold, primal earth. There is no light to be had down that trail, nor heat, nor companionship. I am finally here – the mouth of the underworld, the first gate of seven through which I must pass. At the end of this journey awaits my death… and, if I am very lucky and very brave, my rebirth. I need only take the first step. Why can’t I take the first step?
I always knew Inanna’s road would lead me here, though not for what purpose. I believe I finally understand, however, and now I the fool who a year ago swore to run boldly in Her ancient footsteps tremble in fear at the threshold. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. How did She do this? How did She walk into the waiting darkness knowing that at every gate She must surrender a piece of Her identity? I don’t know how to let go so easily as She. I don’t know how to leave behind the things which I have dragged with me all the years of my life: internalized misogyny, unattainable beauty standards, self-hate and self-doubt and self-sabotage. I know how to love someone else’s flaws but not my own.
I’ve wondered for years why I could never quite grasp Inanna’s full appearance, why She came to me naked and unadorned with face hidden in shadow. The answer is obvious in hindsight; She was forcing me to look past Her silk robes and glittering jewels, Her golden headdress and lapis lazuli scepter, past the various trappings of the Queen of Heaven and instead to the plain flesh beneath. I had no choice but to stare at Her round hips, Her soft stomach, all Her folds and curves which were so lovingly depicted in devotional art over 5500 years ago. She wants me to understand – and truly embrace – the fact that what I find beautiful in Her I cannot vilify in myself. I must respect my body for what it is: an extension of the divine.
My body issues feel insurmountable sometimes. I’m not sure I can even make it through the first gate of this journey the goddess intends for me, let alone all seven. I asked Inanna how I can learn to love my body; She gave me the tarot card Justice as a reminder that I am my own judge and jury and therefore control the harshness or leniency of my sentence. To make any progress I must learn to see my body through a loving lens, not one warped by society’s impossible standards and my own insecurities. Is that, then, the first sacrifice on this journey? Should I – can I – surrender that broken mirror so I may pass through the gate?
the chiropractor says my ribs keep popping out and i wonder if that’s from my heart trying to break free, i mean i can’t blame it, sometimes you just gotta jump ship before it sinks out from under you completely, every man for himself you know, and if that’s the case i’d rather break my sternum right open and set my struggling heart free, let it run run run, find a better home than me, let it fly away and stay away cause all i can promise it is pain, that sounds dramatic but ain’t it the truth, i’m no oracle but i can see where this world’s headed and i’m done done done, hand me the oars and i’ll steer for that light on the horizon, it’s probably a mirage but what the hell, we’ve got nothing better to do as we wait for dawn