Here we are again, back at the annual attempt to jumpstart my inert heart. Summer’s smoke scorched it dry and now I must perform an autumnal resurrection with mummy’s dust and witch’s brews, guttering candles and rattling chains. Can I be honest, though, Ray? I’m tired. Bone tired. I can’t recall when last soft rains came to wet these gargoyle lips and set free the words frozen in stone. I don’t know if I have the strength left to whistle monsters home to roost on cathedral eaves. I feel like Mars long abandoned by native civilization and colonizers alike, just fifty-six million square miles of red sand and dust-covered ruins and the trash of a thousand forgotten generations. I feel like a barren rock hurtling through space that has never known a single Halloween. Yet the full harvest moon shines a bright gold coin in the sky on this equinox eve and I’m gonna try, Ray, I really am, though what kind of jack-o’-lantern tree will grow from soil this parched I do not know. But with your words as my witness, I’ll try.
everything I write that is not about you is a stop-gap measure to stave off starvation, I finished the last of the spoiled canned goods and am resorting now to gnawing the tough leather of my boot soles, and if this continues much longer all they will find of me are scattered white bones, the smooth calcium marred by the serrations of my knife
I am a fragile thing
bone and soft meat
like a mollusc shell I fold over the words inside me
and think, I will protect you
It’s beyond salvage
Ashfall shrouding charred ruins
No one’s noticed yet
My muses dumped me
How embarrassing is that?
Rats flee sinking ships
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 I thought the title of Scribe had been bestowed upon me, a gift which could be rescinded at any moment, but now I see it has been carved into my very marrow since the beginning.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.
With these words I buy
A moment of sanity
Precious yet fleeting
I am a ghost town
Built around a dried-up well
Oh how the winds cry
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.
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.
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 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?
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?
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
i’m sorry i said those things, i swear i didn’t mean them, i was just afraid and angry, i’d lost you and i thought they’d bring you back, but i’m not mad anymore, i promise, you can come home now, i won’t ask where you were or what you were doing or why you left, i won’t say anything at all, look i’ll close my eyes and count to ten and if you’re here when i open them again then everything will be fine, we’ll just go back to how it was before, no hard feelings, no lingering resentment, we’ll wipe the slate clean, just come home, just come home, just come home, i’m begging now, will you come back if i beg
it occurs to me that perhaps my life is just like The Others, you know, and – SPOILER ALERT – it turns out i was the ghost all along, what a fucking plot twist, no wonder all the things i tried to hold onto kept slipping away, no wonder all the times i tried to stop you from leaving you just passed right through me like i wasn’t even there – because i wasn’t there, was i, i wasn’t on your mind or even on your same fucking plane of existence, so yeah, maybe all these years ive been haunting you and not the other way around, wouldn’t that explain some things, and maybe you finally found some priest or medium to exorcise me so you can sleep at night without my chains rattling in the hallway, good job i guess, sweet dreams, but you know ill be back
Do you think I won’t drag your corpses behind me, one by each arm, through all the length of our shared Purgatory? I’ve dragged mine along for years; the added burden’s nothing to me. Though you be rot and bone, I will not ever let you go.
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.
this thing happens when i travel where my mind loses its grasp of past and future and i feel like ive only ever been in this shitty airport, i wasn’t even born ive just always existed in this stretch of fluorescent lights and fast food restaurants and people who can’t be bothered to recycle their plastic water bottles, thanks for contributing to the death of our planet, and the longer im in this stasis the more it feels like im dead and this is purgatory or maybe ive gone crazy, who knows, is there even an outside world? im starting to doubt it, maybe im in a closed loop and if i get too suspicious of my reality the people all around will start to notice me and realize I’m an intruder and mob me to protect the fragile structure, im trying to make an inception reference if you can’t tell, but everything i write these days is just awful, truly awful, and anyway what i was trying to get at is that when i travel im always just like a little tiny bit on the edge of hysteria and that’s why i freak out when some small inconvenience happens, security tells me to take out my tablet or my headphones get stolen, really i just like totally fucking lose it cause what if im stuck here forever waiting for a plane that will never come, we apologize for the inconvenience, another hour, another minute, and i can’t go anywhere without lugging all my baggage with me and if that’s not a real hilarious metaphor for my whole fucking life then i dunno what to tell you, after all im just trying to take up space and pretend im a writer when what i really am is full of shit (both literally and metaphorically)
I go through the five stages of grief every time you leave; by now I’m such an expert I can pass through them in record time. Denial – I search for you in music, in books, in dreams, in words, but you are nowhere to be found. Anger – I think how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you how dare you? Bargaining – I apologize profusely for imaginary slights and consider leaving you offerings of whiskey and cigarettes to curry your favor. Depression – everything goes gray and silent and meaningless, and I stop writing completely. Acceptance – I realize this is it, this is the end, there’s nothing more to fear because the worst has actually happened and there’s nothing I can do about it. And then without warning you return, acting as if you’d never left me to fend for myself, and I am expected to play along. And I do, because the alternative is to risk you never returning and I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.