It’s after and my body bends to fit the moment but it’s passing or it’s long since and there’s a difference that I’m missing in the present tense that’s made me learn to pause instead of speak so I can keep myself or something like it and so I can pretend like this is close enough to justify it and so I can tell myself my heart can take it like it always does until it doesn’t and even then. It’s motion and it’s stillness and it’ll kill just easily as anything I’ve said and I’m watching myself as I enter into this, the syllables and movement that I pull on like skin, the me the little thing the mirror that I am so I can make it to the after that I have to believe in because otherwise there’s nothing left and so I play for keeps, I sew each cell into the next until I match the frequency of what’s demanded, until my teeth hit bone and then I know the whole of where I’ll fall and where I reflect, my degradation in my hands so if I scar well enough I’ll be worth it, I’ll bleed like wanting and then it’s after and if I keep breathing I’ll have memorized a thousand thousand instants just like this to keep myself more or less and it’s always less and so I thin into a threat of air to show you that I’m delicate because you’ll believe it but not the steel beneath it and never what’s fragile at the heart of this because every syllable is truth until you hear it. The moment is passing or it’s never or it’s long since and there’s no forgiveness and no space left and I’m light or I’m not but it’s so familiar I let everything slip unspoken and unsaid and never answer for the things I’ve burned to try and feel again because there is a story that reminds me that I learned to pause instead of speak and I remember and I wait and I cut before I’m asked to so I can say I chose this.
Tomorrow meets me with its fists and I ignite into an instant, a little thing perfected by the impact and the threat that I’ll burn the dead that I’ve been mourning as an answer for the silence. I speak until the light is gone. I sing without my voice. I rush and that’s the end of it, there’s nothing else but this because without you I am terrifying and I am void and when I fuck the absence I am real and beautiful and cold. There are words here that I withdraw. I fold them back into my throat. Each syllable is an edge and I wrap my tongue around them, I smile through spit and blood because I know them, I’m scarred and it’s familiar, I’m wide open and it’s sick, I play this for all the violence I’ve taken as my own. I rescind. I collapse the vein and move on to the next. I’m just like you imagined except beatified. Vicious. I keep the distance and in its place there is a moment that stretches thin and fragile and you say I’m glass because it makes the pieces easier to explain away, easier to leave for dust but I witness. I am awake. I see your cowardice. I see every inch of desperation you use to force your tail into your mouth, eyes slick and innocent, your safety paramount, your throne preserved in every bit of skin you’ve refused to part with. I see and it’s enough. I want less and less because each denial makes me luminous, because soon only my body will be left, my flesh and bone an invitation and a promise, a lie made holy on the altar of my dead and I’ll be with them, I’ll be soft and breathless, I’ll untie the ribbons from my throat, I’ll fall like I was meant to and the veil will finally catch, my fingertips the spark. All this in the passage between my present tense and the tomorrow that’ll kill for the collision I’ve kept inside me for the moment when I hit, when I burn like four am, when my lungs forgive me, when my refusal gives me a reason to live.
I bleed out and something answers for me. I’m passive, slack, wondrous. I can almost see myself from here and it looks like nothing that’s familiar, I’m passing stranger, I’m speaking and it’s not my voice. I’m gone and intimate and everything you could have wanted, just at a distance. Look don’t touch. I repeat myself and there’s less to go around. This translucence is a compliment, a little thinning for me to call my own. I let go. I sing but it’s fainter, the dead are with me and we press together, we breathe on empty or we don’t. There’s something perilous in this, in us. And it slips its shape to keep our edges holy, it keeps us shining, it fits like kindness on our tongue. I give up. Something like me starts to pull this all apart, something brilliant that could have lived between four am and everything that comes after, something that speaks when I remember to open my mouth. All this absence spilling out and there’s no end because that’s not how sickness works. There’s no light and that matters so much. I still have the names I only call myself. My body breaks down in time to my heartbeat. I’ve long since left but no one asked and so I couldn’t tell. Fear remembers me and nothing else. The space between this and what comes next will kill me before you understand this because when I stop the pause will be a wreckage and a promise, it’ll speak and I’ll still lose, and I’ll sink into the cruelty I’m owed. I move like watercolour for the moment. I see what breaks and swallow it down. I’m so far, now. I hear the rest from beneath the surface and I breathe out. Slowly, slowly. Nothing’s rushed. I push to keep the geometry of this in place, to carve the pattern into my bones, to keep count because the mathematics still remember when I was warm. Something flowers in my heart and answers for me. I see and stop watching, the seconds disfigured as they pass between us.
I move in bone and skin and nothing else; I undress in the accusative and leave you raw. I’m junksick except I mean it. The memory and the real of it. The echo that didn’t make it because I’m close enough to know that I was never here at all. I measure all your inhalations by my scars. I drown in air that dresses up as after, that paints in halos and speaks as if the present tense is anything but gone. I murder what you had of me and smile because you keep telling me I won’t do it, you swear to me that I couldn’t but my hands are just a little bloodier and hello darling here we are. I have my dead and it’s enough. I have the light until I speak but then I’m quiet and what happens after only sees what’s come before, like when you tell me that you hear me and it sounds the same as when there’s no one there at all. The stillness is deep and it’s perfect and it comforts me because it’s familiar even if it’s cold. I tongue the absence and call it good: I tell you everything and you’ll never know. I slip closer and the distance comes undone. I move in ash and holiness and nothing else and when I’m gone I’ll slip through all incorruptible, my finger bones dissolving in your mouth. Each thread of air will bleed out of my cells until I’ve thinned into a sound so heartbreaking that your throat will close around the force of it and you’ll say that I’ve become immaculate and then I will be even though I always was. You’ll make a shrine out of the remnants, the scraps and the miraculous that are covered in your spit because the only thing you have is the me you made to tell yourself I’m yours. And all of this is years ago and right now and I’m empty in the face of it because if you’d wanted this you would have and you didn’t and so hello darling now I’m gone.
I sing to hear the rain that never comes. The dead are with me and they know. The axis of this place sustains me, it is a single line from heart to hole. Memory has abandoned us and our blood is one substance, our bodies are transfigured in ecstasy and asphalt. Before this there is nothing so we dissolve our mirror image as we crown ourselves as gods. There is the City and nothing else. I am a source and there is a Garden on the mount and there is no water in us, just these shades of absence that I couldn’t have known before this moment, some nuance that kills as I move all familiar until I pretend that I’m living, I pretend that I’m still breathing, and I sing to try to find the hollow and the sun. There is a rush that answers from my throat that reminds me that my body is a prophecy and a triumph, that there are centuries in us and no forgiveness. I commit atrocity in the name that comes closest. I know what was promised by the shape of what’s been taken from us, a liturgy of hours that passes through what’s left of us, that strangles hope to give us substance. We have lost. We disentangle and I slip into a heaven that never knew that it could fall. I pull starvation closer and I know. What feels like after leaves me cold and I am here and I am speaking from the ruin left of all the prayers that were drowned, all the kindness of apocalypse, all the bones that I was left with, here at the heart of it all. Something catches in the darkness and it is with me, it is always, because the silence here is holy and I answer for the rain that never comes.
The light hums in and I breathe out and what’s left begins to drown. It’s quiet and it’s delicate, it’s the whispered edges to a story that she’s telling and I listen because she doesn’t care that I can hear her and this is as close as I’ve ever come to home. She’s singing and I’m almost real but it’s just this moment, it’s an instant and a window and then it’s gone. Every room I’ve had is this one. The wood swallows up the words I carved in it, it forgets me while I’m here, it leaves me grieving for the hours before dawn. I move and never make a sound. I know every inch of this place. All the hollows. All the absence that sits beneath my tongue. The ashes here are more than what I’ve burned. They smear and drift, sliding up on air that’s long since killed the morning to keep us soft. Each night is longer than the last one. My blood is deeper now. I push the dirt into my mouth. I am buried before I am born. I call out and my dead answer. I don’t remember. I wear their memories as my own. Everything is salt and cold and my smile can only mirror it because it’s balanced on a station of the cross. It catches on the pause in me, the pause that weighs beneath my bones and it’s too much, it’s terrifying and it’s muted and I’ve stopped breathing because there’s no way through this but down. I am waiting to see how much more. I am waiting, my heart magnetic north. The world unfolds and I close my eyes because I’ve never seen this but I still know, I still feel the heartbeat threading through the garden of what’s left of me, the hole in the shape of all the things I’ve swallowed, the emptiness that was promised and I believe in nothing else. I am not here at all. Everything stops and I’ve slipped out, thinned to a descent that feels like permanence, a little thing, nothing, without stars.
It’s you and it’s familiar, it’s just like it’s always been, it’s automatic and it’s home. All your costs passed off as gifts, your apologies built on my sense of obligation to continue this, a contagion of forgiveness and I’m sick with the weight of it, the collaboration of our gravity that says that I’ll accept it because I can make it but you never do. A thousand compromises demanded in the silence that comes before and disavowed as soon as I speak in present tense, as soon as I shape my mouth around no. I blur into the space between because that’s all that’s left to me, that’s all you’ve been willing to concede to me, you and your wound that encompasses the world. You say I know you best but that’s because you’re the only thing you wanted me to know. Every stitch counter-balanced against the next one, a tangle of innocence and how-could-I-have-knowns. Every word dismantles all the etiquette you spent years suffocating me with, all this enforced tolerance, and I’m left here pantomiming widowhood, mourning something that I never had because I was willing to pretend that you could see me as anything other than as a warm place for your loneliness, little thing and theokotos. I don’t have the words for this because I’m tired and they’re still the same ones and they’re just more sound and empty gesture to ignore. This comes as a surprise just like all the times before. I move without warning even though I’ve been saying this all along. I slip and shift and you tell me how much you love that I’m still that girl from twelve years ago. You tell me even when you don’t. You never saw her either, just the reflection that you could use as balm against the void you can’t bear to call your own. I’m ending and there’s nothing in you that can understand that and it’s hard because no matter how often I say you don’t hear me I don’t know that I even believe myself. There’s something like self in me and I’m still trying to murder it. By the time you read this I’ll have never said a word.
I’m not welcome here. There’s no invitation and I’m escorted out. I got as close as I could to any of it, remembering little intimacies that I’d reach for if I knew any of the right words but I don’t and so it’s this again, the close-enough that kills me for the distance, the wait for it that I inhale as if I’ll make it through this. I keep speaking. I’ve said everything and it’s insufficient. This is postmortem, a little muscle memory for the lie that’s left in me, the one that says that this is worth it. The one that still pretends that there’s an echo on the other side of this. I am trying to forgive and I can’t. I see every line and instance and I don’t know where to cut first so I can fit. I could have stopped at the first sentence. All of this is familiar and it’s a scalpel and I’m listening and it hasn’t changed except I’m less and so it goes until there’s nothing left and here’s the aftermath in the shape of me, here’s the gurney and I’m half out of frame because I have to hope that you’ll carve me into something better than what I could have offered to begin with. I’ve only got the mathematics to weigh myself against because in the skin and silence and the hours there’s nothing else to separate what’s me from what I’ve given up. I answer because you haven’t asked and you won’t and I’m trying to forgive without letting go. I’m trying to pretend that the line from my heart to the end is complicated but it isn’t. It’s been four am ever since. I’ve stopped waking up and there’s no difference. There’s no invitation because when I stop nothing else will. I’m trying to play for the perpetual, the cyclic and the internal, the pause that’s mine because I claim it, the lack that tells me what I am. I’m holding on but it’s practiced. It’s perfect and unwitnessed, a little desperation in my last moments. I hesitate. Here I’m prey.
There’s no veil to pull back. I’ve been lying sick with gravity but there’s no truth to that. I push through so I can keep pretending there’s anything at the end of this. I’m playing linear and it’s death, it’s just a way to reassure you that the motion isn’t stillness, that this is passage and not the sudden stop that presses up against the things that you say mean the difference between the you that disintegrates and the second I pause for breath and then. I say everything because you won’t see any of it. I’m speaking and you won’t hear it. This is the silence that means I’m living and it’s the same one that’ll finish this, the one that’s bone deep in me, that drowns me in the heart of it. The words slip through me like something vicious, some edge of teeth and violence, some tiny bit of steel that’s left to me and I can taste it in my spit, like all the things I’ve promised, right up until the moment when everything drops out beneath us and I’m the only one who’s noticed. I have one threat and I can’t make it. Wait, you ask. This is the trump that unravels even as I play it and I’m trying to count the hours that I have left because I play for keeps even if you never see it because there’s nothing here that can balance this. I tell you that there’s no answer and I’ve been lying and I keep speaking because I say I have to because I say there’s still an echo in this but there’s nothing because you only see the picture and that’s enough. But it never was and it leaves me to mitigate my own absence. I repeat because it never ends. I answer and you don’t hear it again and again and. It’s just like it’s always been and I keep trying and it’s a sickness in the shape of comfort in the shape everything I can’t have, a record and a witness. I ignite the space between these words but there’s no air. I close my eyes but nothing fits. There’s not much meaning left.
I slip beneath new skin, I come too close and lose the words and there’s no end, no intent, no pause for breath because we’re pushing through, we say it’s only once and lie for the rush of it, for the memory that strangles us, the we that’s only one of us, a little thing and me all perilous, the mirror and then just us because I turn the card until I bleed, until I smear my black inked veins with all my desperates, the stars an exit and me I disconnect, oh at least I did, oh it was sweet and wild you said, except I couldn’t find you. I come too close, come near enough to count to where we almost touch and it’s not enough, not this time and it never was, even though I’m running cold, my edges sharp and poised and perfect because they have to be if I’m going to make it, I’ve got the sickness that keeps me strung and you a witness, my apocalypse demure and I sing because there’s nothing else, there’s no words and I tell you this, my mouth the shape of all the things I’ve murdered for the sound. When I smile it’s just like you remember it, the predatory tricks and sidelong gentleness, all the things I kept from you and still do because the only thing that I can offer is my absence, because this shadow isn’t mine it’s the aftermath, it’s the almost that left me dead and you wanting, dissolving in the light of what truth feels like in this moment, half-here and thinner every second, we count by years until it’s too much to ask of us, you definitive and me starved to death. Nothing proceeds from nothing again and here I am or somewhere like it, some holiness without substance, a silhouette and precious little else to recommend and so it goes, my voice carved into a frequency that makes heaven shudder with the divinity that’s been left to me, my body collapsing on a single point of entry and it’s the love in me that craves annihilation, the emptiness that curls under my tongue. You don’t believe me until I’m gone, when you find the words I’ve buried in the dust, when you can fit the whole of what you couldn’t have in the space between us, when you can hear everything I kept silent, when I slip beneath my new skin, trading purity for the chance to breathe.
The City is burning and we have come; our ascension is the dawn and there’s no shadow. We see because our eyes are gone, the morning star is bleeding out as we soar. We have seen the face of Golgotha and the garden, the hollow of our bones. We bruise the serpent with our heel, we cauterize the air with our touch. Our voices cry out from one throat. We abandon brick and stone and touch the source. The bruise of our passage is smoke and ashes, it is light and sound and we see it all, the dying and the throne, the last judgement a nail through our heart, the first murder a scar upon the world. Our breath is thick with incense, coils of smoke that sink into the heaven that lies below. They smell of salt and silence, of the remnant of our sacrifice, of myrrh and the pages of the book we’ve torn apart. We immolate and call it righteousness, our spirit pure, our flesh a prison that we forget the moment after. Our hands echo against the glass and we shatter, we give up life and swallow the ineffable, our blessing igniting oxygen, our name made holy and unspeakable. The horizon is a covenant, the arc that was promised us, we sing and pretend and the cycle gives us permanence. There is a zenith until there isn’t. We press our mouth against the highest and still fall. There is no light that answers us. We surrender but there’s nothing left to burn. The axis turns, our sky collapsing, the story that sunders existence into dust, the world that ends because we thought to be at all. We turn over the final card. We begin again. There is no forgiveness. There is no light in the City; it’s endless.