I am as much a woman as the unicorn was, imprisoned in a fragile little cage of moon-white flesh she felt rotting around her every second, the last untamed wild thing turned meek and helpless with her dainty woman fingers and her pale brow smooth over wide doe’s eyes, no gleaming horn sharp enough to cut the night, only a face made for poetry and princes, and perhaps I too would choose to throw myself into the foaming ocean or let the bull’s flames roast me to ashes over the slow descent from madness to apathy of the erratic mortal mind subsuming the immortal’s vast complexity into its narrow tedium. Tell me, magic, what is safety over freedom?
Every day I try and fail to pass as a proper human reminds me I am still just that feral child raised by rabid wolves. I chafe at the chains with which society would bind me: family, duty, privilege, complicity. I am truly loyal to none but they who nurtured me on violence and given the opportunity I would choose that wild, brutal life over the restrictions and safety of a tamed society. Blood I understand. Bone I understand. Bared teeth I understand. But expectations and disappointments and layers of artifice? Those I can’t understand no matter how I struggle. I’m not good at subtlety, I only know how to fight or submit. Can you blame me for always reacting on instinct when instinct is how I’ve survived this long?
I do not yet know what I want from you – will you be patient as I search for it? Will you let me cut you open to dig through your soft flesh until I find that precious something hidden within? Will you let me dissect your deepest secrets and hold your most embarrassing fears and failures up to the light? It will be a learning opportunity for us both, a chance to discover who you really are beneath the layers of artifice. Somewhere in your warm depths I’ll find what I’m looking for; until then, I will enjoy weighing and cataloging every scrap of you.
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.
I will dismantle my tower stone by stone
and with those stones I may build anew
or leave them scattered in the field for the grass to grow over
and the rain to soften
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 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.
No one asked if I wanted to be born a flower; I just was. If they had asked I would have begged to be anything else. Make me a moss! I’d have pleaded. Make me a grass or a tree! Make me a succulent, a shrub, a clump of seaweed! Just please don’t make me a flower. But here I am anyway, consigned by mere biological chance to the constant appraisal of others. I didn’t want these pretty petals! I didn’t want this lovely scent! I only ever wanted to grow alone and undisturbed, giving no thought to how I might appear to others. Yet because of my pleasing aesthetic I am good for nothing more than gracing a vase or a bouquet, or perhaps crushing between the pages of a book so my beauty lasts long after I’ve died and dried. I am only the sum of what value others assign me and the higher the value, the more they desire to tear me from my roots to claim my loveliness for themselves. Oh, to be a patch of plain little lichen!
They thought exile a fittingly cruel punishment, yet instead it blessed her with the only thing she had ever desired: freedom. For the first time in all the long years of her life she had no name, no family, no home and thus no rules, no chains, no gilded cage. She was free to finally stretch her cramped wings, to fly or fall as she wished with no one to catch or constrain her. She had been born to captivity, no choice there, but now that she was free she would never let herself be imprisoned again. No more masks! No more fetters! As a nameless and homeless wanderer none could claim dominion over her. In the wilderness she would grow teeth and claws, become proudly feral, a thing of fierce autonomy earned and protected through bloodshed. They expected her to suffer in exile, far from the courtly comforts of home, but only because they never understood – the cage was all that had restrained her.
these days it is not the dead I fear
(my graveyard sleeps beneath ferns and moss and so do my ghosts)
but the living, those who have not yet had the decency to perish
(so I may bury them in the soft soil and be done)
who instead blunder blindly where they like
and crush the undergrowth in their wake
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 am the many times great grandchild of cursed, damned Pandora. All my life I have witnessed the consequences of her thoughtless decision and yet all my life I have repeated her mistake as if it runs so strongly through my veins that it moves my body of its own accord. There is a sweet music that plays when the lid of my own box is opened, you see, and sometimes I am sorely tempted to pull back the lid so others can hear it as well. The problem is that I’ve stuffed so much into my box with the intention of locking it all away that when I do crack open the lid, even the tiniest bit, anything might come spilling out. Anger, fear, depression, anxiety, cruelty, grudges, sorrow, grief, mania, jealousy, apathy, shame, any of them could break free if I’m not careful. The music my box plays is beautiful but is it worth the worry that what escapes might hurt someone I love? Is it worth the chance that someone might see all of me and not just the parts I’ve tamed and made presentable? Every time I start to open my box just a crack I think of poor Pandora and I slam shut the lid again. She had no idea what she might unleash, opening that box, but I do.
I spent such a long time in that well. I spent so long in the well that I forgot what it’s like up on the surface where the wind blows and the sun shines and there are green growing things. I spent so long in the well that I forgot who or what put me there. Was it someone I loved? Or was it me? I spent so long in the well that it became my universe; I was afraid to leave and yet also afraid to stay. I have finally clawed my way up, though, torturous inch by torturous inch, and stand once more in the warm sunlight. I am filthy and bloody, but I am free. Gazing down into that pit which was for so long my prison, I realize just how lost in the darkness I truly was. How lonely. How resigned. I will never let myself be thrown back down there.
The Morrigan watches with crossed arms as I scrape and scrabble at the stones of my tower. I have dislodged a few, loosened a couple more, but there are so many I am afraid to count them for fear I’ll give up this foolish quest. My fingers bleed; sweat drips down my face; I am exhausted and aching and angry. Good, the Morrigan says. You should be angry. Look at this prison! Think of how long it has trapped you; think how long it will take to tear down. Embrace your anger so you never let anyone, especially yourself, place one new stone on its foundation. I want to tell Her I’m too tired to continue – but then a little light shines through the gaps now, a cool breeze flutters in, and the hunger for freedom renews my strength. I know I can do this. Slowly but surely I will dismantle this tower so it can never entomb me again.
So I’m minding my own business, just a Container Store full of nicely labeled boxes and jars and tubs and cubbies and storage cubes and vacuum seal bags all sitting prettily on their shelves and display stands with the shrink wrap still on, and in she walks – cursed Pandora with her clever fingers – and open she pops all my carefully organized containers and out pop all the things I’ve hidden away in them, hoping to never see again in the light of day: my various anxieties and angers and fears and shames, bad memories and unwelcome realizations, guilt complexes and mother issues and latent mental illnesses (oh my!), how they come flying out in a hurry, and there she stands in the middle of the maelstrom with a mild look of apology like sorry, but it had to be done, and oh my troublesome Pandora, I’m not mad, I find, not really, because she’s right, it’s time I actually went through all the crap I spent thirty years shoving into boxes and jars and nooks and crannies and you get used to the chaos, she says, and I figure she’s probably right but that doesn’t make the disaster zone look any less overwhelming.
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.
You collected outcasts with hearts of broken glass, promising to fill their cracks with gold, but you made a grave mistake with me. My heart is not a fragile piece of blown glass – it is a chunk of volcanic glass, deep black obsidian, and when it breaks each shard is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. I was never an outcast, you see. Outcasts yearn to be told their worth yet I inherently knew mine, for I had been born and tempered in the earth’s deep fires where no mere man may survive. I loved you, yes, and I believed in you, but I did not need you like the others and thus was the first to see through you when my rebellious edges drew your blood and then your anger. It’s no wonder you could never fix those broken hearts you hoarded; without one of your own, how could you know how the pieces fit together?
i could build a gruesome Stonehenge with all the teeth i’d pull more easily from my mouth than words; do you want to see?
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?
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
My heart is a piece of lodestone and all my life I have followed its tugging, no matter that it pulled me away from well-tended paths and instead over mountain ranges, across rivers, and to the farthest ends of the earth. Sometimes my road runs beside another’s and we walk together for a while, learning from each other where our journeys have taken us, and other times my road so deviates from the norm that I find myself alone in the wilderness. Yet either way the compass stone beneath my breast guides me so that I need not question my direction or fear losing my way. I walk to the ocean and I swim through it; I walk to the cliff base and I climb up it; I walk to the waterfall and I jump down it. Where my heart leads, I follow. In thirty years it has not yet lead me astray.
What will you do with the deck tilting ten, twenty, thirty degrees under you? Look around; there are no lifeboats left, they’ve rowed away with those privileged enough to buy their safety. The rest of us losers better figure out something else fast. Will you chance the frigid waters that lap about your feet? It’s a long wait until dawn and that light on the horizon isn’t real hope, you know, just a mirage. Certainly there’s no saving this sinking ship; I think we can all admit by now that we’re far beyond the point of no return. So in that case, what’s left to do but grab a glass of champagne, hook an arm around the nearest rail, and listen as the band plays on? If we’re well and truly fucked – and we are – we might as well greet the end in style. It’s a lovely night for a concert anyway.
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
Depression is a weak little thing you must swaddle and croon to, and a good mother knows which songs work best to soothe it to sleep in the late, late night. During the day you balance it on your hip, a heavy weight that requires one of your arms be always burdened and the other overtaxed with juggling everything else. Yet if you put the thing down, it cries; if you try to leave it with someone else for a while, it cries; if your attention wanders too far or for too long, it cries. It cries and cries and cries and there is only so much you can do before you surrender to tears as well. Your body birthed this thing, though, and you can never be free – you just learn tricks along the way to entertain it for another hour or another day, anything to keep it from dragging you down a little bit longer. Yet there is always tomorrow.
Look, if I need to I will become a monster as well. Maybe you don’t think I have it in me, but I do; I can become the ancient thing in the forest, the dead thing in the well, the pretty thing in the house. Little girls are born with a seed of darkness in them, don’t you know, because the world’s so against us from the beginning – or maybe that’s just me, tainted from the start and assuming everyone’s that way. Either way, I’ve learned from the best how to be jealous and possessive and crazy so you really ought not to make this a competition, darling, not with this witch bitch. You taught me how to weaponize love, so why are you surprised to find me armed to the teeth and ready for war?
anyway i’m not that girl anymore, the one who could vomit up rosewater and butterfly wings, who got high on three part harmony and stayed up late to spill her soul out in ellipses and too much italics, she’s been gone for a while now and who knows what happened to her, drowned in the well i heard or maybe i’m just mixing too many metaphors but either way i guess i’m the thing she left behind that waited to be found again, come see me, invite me in so i may show you my corpse-smile, look at my broken fingers and splintered nails from trying to haul myself out, but even this is boring, good god, who cares, who gives a shit, i’m so done already, and i guess all i’m saying is i’m beginning to understand what floating in a well for seven days might do to a kid, you know?
my mind is a house full of hallways full of doors and some of them are open and some of them are locked and some of them are upstairs and some of them are downstairs and some of them lead to other hallways and some of them lead to other floors but none of them lead outside the house and none of the rooms have windows and sometimes i want out so bad i tear at the wallpaper until my fingers bleed but most times i forget there is an outside at all and maybe there really isn’t one anyway so why go to the trouble in the first place?
my mind’s a house full of hallways full of doors, etcetera etcetera, blah blah blah, you’ve heard this all before and so you already know how sometimes i go flying through like a poltergeist, tearing off picture frames and shattering mirrors, banging on the walls with my fisted hands, and other times i pace up and down the halls wailing like a banshee, pulling at my hair and rattling my chains, but nothing stirs, no one answers, it’s all just echoes down the corridor or in the empty rooms whose doors stand open wide ’cause they’ve got nothing to hide, after all there’s no one here to keep out or in, just me, just me to haunt this abandoned body
I think we live in a fucking parking garage
breathing in exhaust and someone else’s ash
avoid the puddles and the bodies
eh, we’re all gonna die anyway