My mom used to work in hospitals and nursing homes. Long shifts. Heavy lifting. Clean-up in Room 3. Spilled-guts. Spilled-bowels. Spilled-bladder. Spilled-blood. Human-spill. Spill-spillage. She’d come home to house, nighttime-still. She’d come home to pass-out, lack of sleep. Stumble down stairs, wash away fluids. Wash away E. Coli. Wash away sweat. Wash away death-stench. Pass-out lack of sleep. Repeat, next day. Lift-up crying. Lift-up disease. Lift-up dying. Lift-up human-spillage. Repeat. Lift-up human-spillage. Repeat. The babies never had a chance. Twins. Fallopian-tube, burst. Platelet, internal-vein explosion. Ghost-bleeding. Phantom-bleeding. Insides-bleeding. Also known as hemorrhage. Also known as dying. Also known as 8 hours screaming/fainting/shaking pain. Also known as doctor-induced abort mission. Ride or die. Abort mission or sleep-eternal. No blood left. So I could hold two still-borns. One mass explosion. The other clump of tadpole-mess. Save the unborn. Send the living home. Follow the plan. Return home. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Kill the mother, spare the child. Or spoon-scrape cervix. Tissue-removal. Tissue-removal. And I wake every day thanking the doctor that left her blood-cup-half-full. Pray to false god of saving lives. Return me home. Return me home.
Fall On Grace
Ballpoint tears, my fountain pens
Quill dipped ’neath Horizon’s rim
Clouds of thought sail sunlight, dim
Crimson, east to west, I swim
Full moon flush with Sun’s embrace
Evening, scattered stars enlace
Heaven writ in double space
Endless waters fall from grace
Papyrus creased; pressed flowers age
Bound within worn leather’s cage
Silence sheered, each gilded page
Echoes; wisdom’s ancient sage
Worries drowned in well of ink
Weightless; sorrow’s anvil sinks
Heart of grey now blush with pink
To fall on grace with everything
Ruler of the Mountain
“Anyone can reach the top!” A man shouted, from his starting point somewhere midway up the mountain. He grabbed giant outcroppings of rock that served as perfect handholds. Grunted as he hauled himself up the steep incline toward the distant summit. “We all have an equal chance!”
“What?” called another man, who’d found himself randomly at the bottom of the mountain, among dirt and stone shards. He faced a sheer cliff above him. “Did someone say something?”
“We all have a chance!” Grunted a woman a few kilometers above him. She was scaling the cliff, somehow, grabbing tiny cervices with the tips of her fingers, and leaving trails of blood between the cracks. “But you have to work ten times as hard as that guy way up there. Equal my ass!”
Not far away, a fortunate man was riding a lift past the daunting cliff face. He landed somewhere below the middleman, and immediately raced to catch up with him. “Wow, climbing is so much easier from here!” He launched up with the speed and agility of a mountain goat.
“Hey!” yelled the middleman. “That’s not fair. He got a free ride!” He picked up his pace, but was no match for his new competition.
The fortunate man outstripped him in no time, grabbed and yanked him off rocks, sending him tumbling down the mountain, screaming.
“Not enough room for all of us!” yelled the fortunate man. But he soon hit a dead overhang above him. So near the top, he could taste it. But, how, how did he get past this?
A woman hung by her fingers not far off, as she traversed the overhang hand-over hand. Would she make it? Or would she fall? Statistics were not in her favour.
Above her, past the overhang, people clambered for the very top, only big enough for one. “Anyone can make it,” they chorused as they climbed over each other. “If you can’t make it, you’re not working hard enough!” Some of them had come from the bottom. Some had been lifted partway, some had slogged the entire time. Others had always been here.
But no matter where they came from, one thing was certain. There wasn’t enough room for all of them. They threw each-other off the summit, to plummet and roll back down the mountain.
A woman grabbed the man standing at the tip, yanked him down and scrambled to take his place. “Yes!”
But a second later, someone grabbed her, and sent her rolling down the mountain, off the overhang, and into empty air. Her screams were drowned out by the chant from the crowd. “Anyone can make it. Equal opportunity. Equal chance.”
“We. Are. Equal!
The woman on the cliff-face far below, who’d stopped to help a boy who was struggling, called up to them.
“Equal my ass!”
‘‘Where is she?’’
The Royal advisors tried to hold her down. They chained their ruler to the floor.
The King begged for help from the Royal alchemists. They shook their heads. None of them were certain if there was a cure.
The Royal guards were asked to make sure that the current prisoner did not escape. They did as they were told and stood watch over the one placed in the jail.
‘‘Is there anything that can be done to help her?’’
The Royal advisers all felt sad for the King. His wife had been bitten by a strange looking beast when she had gone to relax by the lake, and no one knew how to cure her.
They had heard stories that if anyone got bitten by these human-like beastly creatures, there was nothing that could be given to heal them. The only sure way of saving them (and their loved ones from also getting infected) was putting an end to the person’s (who got bitten) life.
The King couldn’t bear to lose her. He had told his knights to not use their swords to harm their Queen. They were terrified of the King’s actions of holding on to the beastly form of his wife. But they obeyed and listened to their King.
All of them followed the order, except for one person in the castle. The young lad grabbed a small vial in his workshop and quickly made his way to the prison cell.
Once there, he pulled a blade from his coat pocket & cut his left palm. The prisoner moved toward him and lunged for his hand. The lad moved it away and opened the vial with his mouth. He tossed the vial into the creature’s open jaws.
A liquid slid down the creature’s throat. After a short while, the creature was back in its human form.
The lad smiled and gave a nod to the prisoner. She looked around and wondered what happened. What was she doing in a prison cell?
The King decided to go check on his wife. To his shock, he found that she was no longer in a beast form.
He opened the cell and hugged her. She was glad to see him. Whatever in the world had she done for her to be taken as prisoner? She hoped the King had answers to all her questions.
At Some Point I Discovered
At some point I discovered if I stretched
on the rim of the bathtub in front of the window,
I could see over the half--curtain and into the bathroom
of the symmetrical unit across the alcove. One night, sloshing
soggy, in the cooling bathtub of 31 Brewster Street,
I saw the light come on across the way. To my amazement, Angelique,
the twenty--something nanny for the noisy toddlers
of the next--door, yuppie couple, was undressing
for her bath, not twenty feet away.
This was a living body – all
sweat and blood and flesh – and I was standing
on the edge of the bathtub, peering over
the curtain at her – blond hair, unraveling over
pale shoulders, plump arms, breasts – round and pale,
her bottom -- round and pale, as she
bent to remove the brown wool tights. I stretched
on my toes, to see everything -- dripping
and naked from my bath. And then she stiffened,
jerked abruptly upright, and to my horror
her blue eyes came full frontal to return my stare,
they were not fierce, I remember
or embarrassed, or even surprised -- more ironic, almost struck
with disbelief, at which, I became aware of my own
naked form, framed clearly in the window
of my own bathroom – my scrawny arms, hairless chest, everything
was plainly visible to her, perched as I was
on the rim of the tub. I remember her eyebrows
lifted slightly, amused and knowing. She smiled and then
in the next moment, it was I -- plunged in mortification -- who
turned to cover myself.
Shadows and Souls
I am the shadow that passes unseen in the dark, the breeze you first feel but brush off as lark.
Stealthy, this game I must play to survive. I can’t even tell if I’m barely alive.
Do you still know me? Can you hear me?Screaming behind glass. The air growing thin, needing oxygen fast.
But mere shadows go unnoticed. Will you ever see? See the girl you once knew has faded away to nothing?
Everyone once loved her, that vibrant young thing. But once her wounds became evident, they shunned her very being. Discarded like takeaway food from last night. Begging, crying, calling out for one bite.
Oh your scraps are all worthless, for they come from a place. A place so dark and so twisted, it all seems a waste.
Each black heart struggling to beat in those chests, is now given over to the dealer of death. He never long taries, for when it is time, he will come and proclaim that “what’s mine is fairly mine”.
So beware of your souls and whom you lend them to, for they may never return and one day you will only be left--with you.
When the forbidden fruit's juice dripped from the mouths of Adam and Eve, humanity didn't simply fall.
Beyond blissful ignorance, beyond what we thought we knew, what we didn't even know we didn't know.
Out of the grips of old gods and scheming prophets, out into the unknown void.
Out of toxic traditions and questionable judgement, out to break free from them all.
We began to understand. Think for ourselves.
We have opened our eyes, but some chose to close them back up.
Out of fear. Hatred. Confusion. Disgust.
We all have a choice: the blessing and curse of knowledge, or peace of mind.
Taking the leap or shying away from the edge.
Have you eaten chosen to eat this fruit, or are you afraid of falling?
One more Fall
The blood was fresh on her skin; fresh enough that it glistened in the light when she shifted her fingers; fresh enough that skin brushed skin with a thick, wet slip; fresh enough that its sharp, metallic tang drifted up into her nose.
The blood on her skin was fresh enough that she should have felt some guilt for what she had just done.
But the place in her heart where guilt should have festered like a wound was empty. The only emotion she seemed capable of feeling was a detached resignment, as if she had simply lost her job, rather than murdered her only son in cold blood.
She looked up at the sound of her name, towards the throne and the figure atop it.
The Devil looked particularly devilish today, she noticed. A crown of jagged black spikes and wicked sparkling rubies perched between two twisted red horns that reached up for the glinting lanterns overhead. A black cape, torn artfully in places, draped over his broad shoulders and hung over the side of the chair to match the black armor that he wore beneath. Its edges were stained a curious garnet that a new addition to his hellish kingdom would automatically assume were blood, but Vanessa had resided within his realm long enough to know that it was just rust. Hell hadn’t seen war in several decades. She doubted the Devil even knew what blood looked like anymore.
And her bloody hands, she supposed, were just a pleasant reminder.
“Yes?” Vanessa replied. She crossed her arms over her chest, smearing the dark substance on her fingers along her sleeves as well. Audible gasps and murmurs rose from the watching court as she felt countless sets of eyes land on her bloodied digits and hurriedly take flight. It had been a while since they had beheld a sight so violent as well, Vanessa was sure.
She almost snorted at that. There had been a time where this entire throne room was coated in blood from top to bottom. There had been a time when the Devil had been a symbol of fear and terror, rather than an example of a perfect king. There had been a time when coming to hell was the ultimate sentence, and that time was not now.
“Why did you- Why would you do that?” The Devil looked almost hurt.
“Why did I do what?” Vanessa said.
“Oh, for gods sake,” the Devil said. “Your son, Vanessa. Why did you kill your son?”
“I’d forgotten I had a son,” Vanessa said, all false bravado and phony nonchalance. She glanced down at her hands, just for show, and pretended to be surprised when she noticed the red caught beneath her fingernails. “Oh dear.”
The Devil rubbed his forehead with a clawed black hand. “Oh dear indeed. Have you forgotten the principles of our kingdom? Have you forgotten your own morals?”
The Devil cut her off, “We haven’t had problems in fifty years, Vanessa. We’ve been civilized. We’ve been good. Why now?”
Vanessa shrugged. “Why not now?”
“Because- because-” The Devil spluttered, “Because it’s illegal!”
“So what you’re saying is that I broke the law and I need to be trialled.”
“That is- oh my lord help me- that is exactly what I’m saying.”
“Fine. Then I plead guilty.”
It played out like a badly written soap opera: the disbelieving gasps from the crowd, the silence that followed like a swarm of unforgiving wasps, the betrayal etched into the Devil’s stone-sharp features. Vanessa almost laughed. Oh, if the angels could see the citizens of hell now: more perfect a kingdom than heaven itself.
“You plead guilty?”
“I do. I plead guilty to the murder of my son.”
The Devil hung his head, as if her admittance were his own. As if he bore all the guilt that she did not. As if he had more of conscience than she did.
“Then you know what that means,” he said finally, and when he lifted his hand to conjure the portal beneath her feet, something inside of Vanessa loosened like a knot coming free.
When someone falls from heaven, they wind up in hell. When someone falls from hell, no one ever sees them again.
And that was exactly what Vanessa needed. She needed to vanish, to disappear into the world, to never leave a trace behind. She needed to silence herself completely so that the truth of what she had done would end with her, so that the truth of who her son was would be buried alongside her.
The Oracle of Hell had not had a vision in over fifty years. And over time, as her silence continued, the kingdom had forgotten about who she once was. She’d almost forgotten about who she once was. She’d dared to try her hand at a family and a normal life, despite knowing the magic that ran rampant in her veins.
Then, the visions returned. The images had seared her mind at night, then remained with her in the day like thick puffs of smoke, hanging about. In the near future, her visions told her, the violence would return. The bloodshed would have its corpses. Hell would be as it once was. And all of this, her visions told her, would start with the baby boy she’d sung lullabies to.
He was always taught the difference between right and wrong. As a home-grown country boy, he knew that his life was for God, his mama, and his country, in that order. He knew that a man’s word was his might, and his might didn’t mean anything unless it stood for something. That’s why, when he gave his word to serve his country, he wasn’t afraid. He was resolute in his rectitude. He was resolute through his training, learning to serve without question and learning to trust in his brothers, those fellow men of resolve. When he was dropped into battle and suddenly life-and-death wasn’t theoretical, he was confident. When his fellow men fell and bled for what they stood for, he picked them up and carried on. When those combatants fell and suddenly didn’t seem much different from his fellow men, he persevered. When the women and children were caught in the crossfire and he felt sick seeing their wretched corpses so like the women and children back home, he closed his eyes. When he was confronted with his enemy’s humanity, he wavered. When his fellow man sought out those unarmed innocents, he cried. When that man was not punished but praised for his viciousness, he doubted. When that rot festered in the ranks of his fellow men, he feared it would overcome him too. And when one man’s faith in his resolve shattered, he prayed to God that He would forgive this transgression, committed through his innocence.