The corners of the room unfold in tiny increments, their measurements here and gone and bleeding in the spaces that they’re not meant to, staining the edges and the endings and leaving their fingerprints as an answer to the dawn. The letters call and answer, they don’t need me anymore. The words reflect, they’re shining but I’m mirrorsick, I’m slowing down. There’s a pause and I know it but each time it hits me I’m still shockwhite with it, I’m still caught mid-step, breathless with the steel that says it knows me and it does. I can’t argue with it, not when I’m the one who carved all this into my image, a little wire for the me with nothing except the bones and circumstantial evidence of a heartbeat long since given up for something more. The body drowns and I remember every moment of it, a brush of skin and cooling stars and I let it pass through me, hand to hand to mouth to void. It isn’t losing when I’ve lost and I tell myself that it’s passed because the passing killed me and I want it over with, I want my translucence. I want my flatline back. If I twist I can still see the marks left on this thing but they’re fading with me, they’re part of this and even as I’m letting go they tighten, they remind me and they hit the frequency that’ll shatter me if I let it so I say no. I frighten myself into my new body, my angelic host, my mouth a gap between the Garden and the world and I decline the sound. I shut down. I’m new enough that it’s a tragedy but not a long one. I show up muted. I’m surrounded. The bruises wait and I won’t leave them, not when they answer, not when they come so close. I tell myself the room was waiting for us. I tell myself that there’s an exit. I unfold and there’s no point to it, just another autopsy but I don’t mean it, I can take it back if you don’t want it, I can slip back into what I was when this was anything other than what’s here now, I can give you everything because I’m all of it. I can repeat. I won’t belong. I leave and come into something precious that I’ve been trying to find the words for but I’m too close to it, it hurts and I’m too familiar and I won’t have anything else until the end of it it’s just I never thought I’d get this far and sometimes I understand that I never did. The dreams run thick. I put them down. I’m finished but the room isn’t, and I’m here and it’s too much, it’s a geography that’s merciless and I’m slowing down and when I stop there isn’t anything to mark it, my blood’s too distant. I repent and there’s nothing. I spit and taste the dust and adoration that was all of this. I stretch across the floor and wait for something to catch the hook left in my throat.
Night comes in the moments I let slip through the hands that I’ll call mine if it makes it easier to believe this and the darkness pauses, waits, delays, holding its breath just like I’ve been because here we’re still the same and I keep looking for the only one I lost because that losing made me something else, it made me close enough and I didn’t ask if I’d make it, I just left. The light remembers. I try for hours and only manage days. I tell you and it’s unrecognizable, it’s the same moment as the silence and there’s no difference, there’s no difference but you ask to keep up appearances, to keep the joy in spaces that crack against the burnt-brick fingertips you’ll claim will catch now, any minute, if only and here it comes again, the spill of threat disguised as our familiars, if only I would, you promise, if only. I’m cruel, you tell me. An affliction in the shape of distance. I slide out of reach and I mean it. I’m going to stop pretending the fight we’ll have will change this. I murder for an exit. I memorize what I’m going to say and go silent. I teach those words to someone else, I strip them of their context. It hurts but so did everything else, so did the present tense when it was that and not this blur of now that feels like it hasn’t happened since. I don’t flinch so much as dive for cover, the memories a reminder without the ashen glow of your nostalgia, just the thick hurt that comes from having lived them, the gap beneath my sternum that I’ve taken as a lover, as an affectation with no audience. I’m losing but not quick enough, shedding what I am but it’s never been much, a little disintegration instead of beauty and if they could see me they’d still miss it because I’ve only got the hope that comes when you give up keeping blood out of this, the spit and wine that made us, that made me fall into the night that comes when everything empties out of me, smoke and all.
Something in me doesn’t make it and now I’m second guessing breathing in the first place, I’ve got new skin and maybe I could have been the same girl you’ve always known except I mean it, except I remember what I would have been if the end of this was any different, if every instant wasn’t thick with four am and if I could hear myself and that’s the point of this, isn’t it, dear thing it’s taken me two days to write this you insist, begging me for sympathy before you’ve even made it through the first sentence but I’m gone, I’m light and ash and incorruptible, I’ve got my dead and I dissolve into something perfect, something translucent, my accidents measured in the metric I’ve been dancing with beneath the one-two promise of your fists, your rhythm desperate and mine practiced and I accelerate for the impact I’ve deserved but not the one that you could give me because you’re less, you’re an emptiness that learned to mimic substance and I’m not waiting for your pause and affectation, I’m not waiting because I’ve hit the dawn running and I won’t stop, not after a night like this, the reflection all reversed and I don’t care even if I see it, I am a witness and I let go because the alternative is a holy war, the chrism vicious on my tongue and I swallow and it consoles because the words forget me, sometimes, and I’m left with another song that doesn’t make a sound and it’s the distance that I’ve had with me ever since, I was daughter with an asterisk, I was expected but I learned what they meant when they said love because there’s caveats, I dressed in leaves and absolutes and let my hair reach back into the stars, I drowned and I was lovely and I was admissible in part, my body only ever real in comparison with something I couldn’t touch, that didn’t exist, a Garden on the Mount of Olives I said, or she did, the difference blurring a little more with each breath, and it’s not regret so much as comprehension, some bone-deep recognition of what we’re doing every moment, everything we ask for without understanding it, our hearts like birds as we unravel another vein and smile into the mirror of all the places that have come before this, the ones that sink so hard the memory isn’t a thought it’s a sickness, our density flickering in and out and we speak like we were promised, our sternums cracked and perilous, our voices tidal and unforgiving and it’s desolate, here in another room in the world and something in me doesn’t make it and I’m inhaling but there’s nothing here to fill me, my lungs are screaming where I’ve only shown humility, this new skin the lie that I’ve been living all along but I’ve gone missing, I’ve slipped and there’s no answer, just another hour that reminds me that there’s nothing in me, still.
It moves and I don’t. I’m still here and I’m thin enough for the words to come out of your mouth, your ex nihilo that comes with too much, your hands reaching in to take what’s yours or would be if I’d just shut up, please, because I’m all of it, I’m everything you’ve got to strangle so you can reassure yourself that you’ve made it, that your kingdom was worth it, that you still deserve what was never yours at all. You keep the lines drawn. You say the sun rises and it does like clockwork. You speak and speak and tell me that this is justice and that I’ve got to be more thankful for it, for everything you’ve done to tolerate the space that I’ve been allowed so long as I’m thinning, so long I answer but stay quiet, my skin fraying at the edges as you move in to demand tribute for the gifts you give in the imperative. The smear of me that keeps you generous. I feather out onto the paper, a blur that doesn’t matter and it sinks in that I’m sick and I’m forgettable, I’m a hundred things that’ll never touch your surface. I’m a disappointment in my own flesh, each mark that I’ve played with an aberration for you to witness, dust on my lips as I pause and it’s been years like this, the space between one moment and the next hits like the slowburn sadness that I can’t be human or you’ll lose whatever it is that lets you comfort yourself with being less. I learn to breathe around it, to fit myself in where your hands can only touch where I can slough you off, so I can keep myself clean enough, so I can take these losses and pretend that they’re acceptable and not violence. I sing and pretend, I said, or I might have, I lose the thread of where my voice has been because I’ve been dancing for the echo, I’ve been leaning on the real threat and I split open between kindness and what’s expected, I say no and it’s benign because you insist that I don’t mean it, because you don’t hear the poison when I say yes. You don’t see how fragile all this is but you’ll tell me what I’ve felt until your throat spills out onto your lap, a wasteland in the shape of experience. You repeat and it’s not emphasis, it’s insistence, the sun rises like clockwork and it’s always been like this, it’s always been like this until it isn’t, until I kill the smile that reassures you while you’re still bloody with all my exits, while you’re still carving just a little bit off the edges, and I say I don’t mind because I didn’t know any other way out of this. I’ll murder all those parts in me and it’ll be far more elegant because I know what I’m doing. You don’t have to explain it.
I never left and it’s six hours past the point when I should have but I’m running on something I don’t have a name for, and I won’t, not for another ten years when I say I’m looking back but it’s right here and I know it and it’s with me and I never left and so I push the blue across my lips and stumble back, down onto the floor with the ink and the pictures I found inside myself when the music skipped, all the worlds that I killed to keep just one thing living, even at the cost of everyone else and I paid it, I said things that no one could take back and you made sure of it, you answered all my threats and oh I listened. I heard all of it. I heard the ink come up to meet me when they inhaled to tell me but I knew that you were gone. I kept the cruelty with me. I kept the taste of blood because it knows me and I will never let it go. I remember the crush and the line and my head falls back but I don’t feel anything, I run another and another and I’m chasing that room because it won’t leave me or maybe I can’t tell the difference. My breath starts to hitch and you’re fascinated and it’s never ever felt like this, your tongue deep inside my autopsy before you even think to ask because it’s all too much, it’s all so perfect right up until I speak and then I ruin it, the artful silence that lets you pretend that I’ve welcomed you in and it’s the same whether you hit or beg or don’t, it’s the want that leaves me cold. I never left and I have and instead I went for kindness but it cost me, it turned the expectation into punishment, it kept my existence conditional on you getting it. Every inch pristine because I had to be, because the only other choice was violence and I reached out a thousand times and stopped because I knew that next time I wouldn’t make it and I had to say it so I could feel powerful even if I wasn’t and I wasn’t and you proved it and maybe I was gentle, after, when I had forgiveness for everything but this. Now I’m less and I can’t tell if this is what you wanted or if it’s what I did, I can’t tell because I’m stronger and I can shatter right in front of you and it won’t make a difference because you can’t see it for what it is, not when all I’ve been is another thing to mirror back to you, nothing real but close enough to make you feel, as if that’s comfort, as if I still believed in distance, as if her hands aren’t mine. I knew what I was. I curled and learned that if there was enough red it was black enough to hide it and so I did and I never lied because I never had to, I stayed perfect, I stayed where you could see me and so you never saw it. The shudder catches me and I’m out of sync, me and my tin heartbeat, I’m as needed but it’s more than that, it’s the muscle-memory that only I have because I never let anyone else see the slip of vein and skin, only the aftermath that I cherished and you never deserved. This place is still with me and you’ve long since left me to the ink and the helplessness, the smear of lipstick at ten am that I didn’t understand but still needed because there wasn’t space for me without it, not even in the sudden stillness that came when I sank back into it, me and the dust and the lost things that I kept.
Take and eat they said and I agree just not the way they meant, my smile fixed along an instant that I won’t forgive because I’ve got salvation stitched beneath the skin, a little resurrection before I find my way back again, heaven-sent and incandescent. Something rides close, breathing where I’m breathless and all you can manage is to open your mouth for the sacrament because I’m precious and that’s it, beatified and spread for your good intentions, one after another over and over and it’s the same story as all the rest, my fingers atrophied in benediction. It’s okay, I promise. I’m a fount, holy mother sans infant. My exhaustion is caught up into glory, the bruises hung so you can press your tongue against them and decide how beautiful you feel now that you’ve touched them, now that they’re real and you can see them you can help yourself and you can do this because you mean well, you’re not like every other one that’s come before. You’re all innocent. You take first and wonder after. You take and that’s the whole of it. I say this is mine and even still I feel the deadweight in my lungs because I know the only way you hear this is with your spit, after you’ve smeared your fingerprints along the curve of something you can’t understand but know enough to want it, my body edged where you have nothing, my own absence manifest except it’s brilliant. I can’t feel and it’s perfect. I fold back my reflection into itself, I exhale and descend. I’ve got a mirror or something like it, I’ve got my echo and I remember everything you said, even when you didn’t. You blur into the last one and the next, all your violence a coincidence, another happy accident that maybe I could answer if there were anything besides this procession of helplessness where I play at shock and pretend I didn’t write the end of this. I know this game by heart and there’s no way for me to win but here we are again, me and everyone I’ve meant when I say you and it doesn’t matter which and in the end it doesn’t matter that I’ve said it, I’m my own audience because when I speak you forget your mother tongue. When I speak all you can do is wait for the pause, the breath, the space between where you can make me sacred, an instant sort of retrospect that keeps me silent in the present tense. You kill the motion so you can take your pick. You don’t see it until it’s too late to claim ignorance. We’re playing on an axis and I’m judged if I don’t kill my balance to keep you gentle, keep you close, keep you reassured that I don’t mean it, no not you, it’s okay, I promise. The glass inside me panics as I collapse the distance, as I shudder for the end times, my blood a brittle thing that’s got me wired for the inhale that doesn’t come, gums pinned back so I can smile like I mean it, even though I’ll never see the other side of this and you just repeat back what you know, your consumption automatic. I sing all my apocrypha and hope I recognize the sounds. This is my body. This is all the scripture I have left. Something in me widens and eclipses. There is noise.
The filament burns out and I’m transparent. Creation bleeds into the once that could have found me if I’d waited but I didn’t and now I’m wide awake and this will never change. I keep close, close as killing to trade the light for something better but I don’t expect to make it past the skin. We’re on the other side of this. I answered and you heard it. There is a heartbeat underneath this and it’s got me pinned and maybe it’s still helpless but I’ve got the name that I’ve been dreaming just not the face. I crown myself along the inverse. My holiness is self-inflicted. Every breath gets me closer and it’s written, it’s scripture and it’s precious, it’s all the words I’ve said because my tongue is thick and black with it, with the all the silences, with the gloria that I’ve got to keep me whole. I would have stopped if I remembered to let go. I would have hit, my late-night habits with me now that you’re gone but I kept my bruises orthodox and when we carved I kept things delicate, I prayed for balance instead of oxygen contempt. When you see this I’ll be unrecognizable, I’ll be someone else but even then I’ll know the right now I’m caught up in is the space between bleeding out and the next sentence, I’ll be someone else but still speaking this, still screaming in my voice or something like it with all the sounds I tore out of the absence, I’ll be the thing I was and what I lost to make this, my body given up to say that I was here. I keep speaking even after and there’s no pause. I want this to be overwhelming, I want you to lose and lose so maybe then you’ll understand why I’ve kept this, why I’ve taken all the words you wanted and kept going, why I won’t erase this because there’s no going back now that I’ve started. I want a witness. I want this to be unforgiving and I want you to know this. I break the surface and I lean in, my mouth wet, the capillaries inside you bright and desperate and now I’ve got your pulse between my teeth. I think about the end of this. The filament burns out and I press harder. I could have waited but I didn’t.
If I stay here I’ll be safe, I’ll mute the hum I’ve got inside my veins, I’ll slip beneath and I’ll pretend. I’ll recite the names of all the dead I have and when it’s over I’ll crawl along the keter and I’ll smash myself against a night that tears itself apart, that breathes and sings the stillness of the judgement, throne and all. I’ll come and go and the words will mean something when you see them, the words will mean something and you’ll put your hands around my throat. I’m beautiful until you let go. There’s a massacre here and it’s burned into the ligaments of all that’s left, some sickly thing I’ve learned to keep as quiet as I can because if I’m supposed be perfect then I’m gonna be an autopsy in the shape of what you’ll let me have, if I could just take this, all of it, if I could just understand that it’s steel and that I’m never getting out of this. You’re a ghost, you said. It’s not murder if I mean it, if I’m strung out and sinking in the chamber while I wait and uncoil and when I hit, my complications merciless. I speak in tongues so you won’t hear it, so you can play as coy as you need to sleep right through it, my edges as soft as you demanded and darling I’ve just started and I’m already finished even if there’s no ending in this apocalypse, just a little flatline for the pious, the one and one that makes me less and you undone. Erasure is the only thing that counts. If I say there’s something in me it means there’s something that you want. I’ve got the fear and nothing else. I pull back so you’ll reach out and you don’t. There’s too much and not enough and when I died I carved their names into my bones because now I know there’s nothing with me. My fix is sanctioned and forgiven because I know how to smile so you don’t see what’s in me except exactly what you’ve wanted, the promise that’s an answer to itself. This isn’t me but it’s quiet and that’s always mattered more. I’ll be that good thing, I’ll be worth the water that I’m drowning in, I’ll be worshipped after and I’ll never tell you no. I tell you if I stay here I’ll be safe but I don’t believe it. I tell you that I’m her because I need it more than you could know. I won’t be wanted unless I was never here at all. I’ll keep my instants apocryphal so you can say you own them, so you can push your fingers where I can’t see them, oh I feel them but it doesn’t count, not against the measure of what you say you needed like it’s the oxygen that I’d tear out of my lungs when I’m still sick of waking up, still sick of losing because I’m only precious when you can take what isn’t yours.
He finds her in the House of Incest, her finger bones stretched along a path of intuition he knows is nothing but intrinsic. From her axis the chamber coils, petals swimming in the revelation of a slaughter she’s made perfect. She slips her insect edges forward, inch by inch, winter-bred, to temper impact and their death; to taste the glass he speaks as softly as she demands. Her wire-frame is poised to devour what is left. When he kneels she gives him all the gravity she’s kept and is answered by the blood of song and passage, his gift. Her ascension. This testament. She unfolds to meet him, the flower of this steel Garden, all honey and violence and thorns.
“There is nothing known but this,” the Queen of Swords says. “My heart. Your inevitable.”
A ribbon of teeth, infinite. “Even unto death.”
Beyond the point of egress she stands, emptied and triumphant. Queen and corpse-bearer. Sacred priestess. The world undone, her sovereignty manifest. Shockwhite and glorious upon the throne of God. Shuddering, she reels upon the axis, the pulse that lead her past the need for anything but this. She stains the world with her divinity, with the passage paid for so dearly, marking Creation with the ashes of all that came before. Cold lips against his brow, she breathes sacrament.
She takes the Nail. Rends the carapace.
The Ink spills, and she drinks, and she speaks, finally, the words that shape the end to everything. Words that murder sound. That immolate it all.
The throne outstretched; the sun ascendant. What was asked has been answered. Conquered. From abyss to the wreckage of Heaven and back again. Her passage breaks the spine of existence. All brilliant and furious she stalks the lines where wire was, where wire would have lead her if it could have entered into this. She curls her hand around his heart, a smile without forgiveness, balanced on the cusp of this enûma eliš.
“Yes.” Flesh and solstice. The blood absolves.
The circle bows. Dominion made manifest. And igniting into daylight she twines around a moment that allows for nothing less than everything of this, in the space between this sacrifice and her ascendance. She takes what’s hers.