come down come down won’t you get off the get off the
and i’ve run miles and miles trying to make the world
spin faster like it
would matter at all like i’d feel better if it did like i’d feel like i wasn’t the only one
the lonely one that ran as fast as i could as fast as i did as fast as i am.
i am only sixteen and everything is so much i am only sixteen and i want to be
so much i am only sixteen and i put the world on my shoulders i am only sixteen
and i am atlas who knew it would crush him but still wanted to be great it feels like
everyday i’m going as fast as i can with no time for a water break i am only
achilles without a patroclus i am invincible i am golden and gleaming and i am
only sixteen and i won’t let anyone coax me out of my armor and take some of
the legend onto their own shoulders i want that. but i do want that but there’s
no time for that there’s no time for that because i need to be everything at once
do you get it? i’m trying to be something here i’m trying to be the hero with the
happy ending because i’m going to be the one to do it if it’s anyone it has to be
me but i’m seeing a flaw in the plan and it’s that i am so tired and i am working
with everything at once and i am only sixteen and it feels like i
have to be much more than that. but i am so tired. and i am only sixteen.
distant cassandra, sailing to her grave
The men sing the liveliest songs they know as they leave
burning Troy and all its anguished dead;
Agamemnon drinks deeply,
laughs the way a dying warrior does when he thinks he’s won.
Alone, Cassandra watches the waves,
wrists bound as she sits with the other captured women
who wail for what is lost, what little remains.
Alone, Cassandra’s eyes are dry beneath the weight of mourning;
She’s seen this all before.
The war is done and the victors sail home with their spoils.
Cassandra sees the rot in their ribs, the blood soon to be spilled;
vengeful wives and desperate widows lash out in the same way
and all Cassandra has ever seen in people are their graves.
“Sing with me,” Agamenon orders, wine on his breath,
warm blood ready to be spilled from his veins.
“There is nothing to mourn,” he says as though Cassandra hasn’t been
mourning her whole life, in her high tower waiting for the end.
You’ll be dead before you see the dawn in your homeland;
Cassandra’s prophecies are always true, but never believed.
She stays silent, still, a daughter without a father;
Iphegenia will rest once she gets her share of their hearts.
The men keep singing as they row,
sharing drinks between themselves in celebration.
Praise to the gods leaves their lips as easily as souls leave their bodies;
Cassandra sees their lives play out before her eyes
And patiently waits as they sail to her death.
on my sixty-seventh birthday i stand in the middle of a cornfield
and pry my ribcage open with two sharp rocks.
there are birds between my lungs, made mad
by wombs of semi-dark, never having learned
to fly, never having sung except
as the world lie sleeping.
these bodies falling out of my body,
tired bodies, feeble and hollow-boned,
and my body becoming the empty church,
shedding sins like snakeskin, trailing past long and heavy.
it begins to rain, so i will drown soon, and look, the birds like oil spills
slick slick slick in the water, and the black swan dancers preparing my funeral song.
i remember my mother and the way she always told me not to get caught in the rain.
i remember the way she took a blackbird hungry, cold, from a storm,
and perched him on her shoulder. the birds at my feet begin to sing
in the downpour, calm and low, a song about light emerging
from the darkness of the throat. they don’t know how to fight
but they do it anyway. our bones shake with the hymnal.
war prayer. church blessing. filling and hungry.
it’s the kind of melody that sounds like a lover’s voice
beside you in bed in the middle of a dream about drowning.
at the foot of this altar
the altar is cold and unforgiving, hard stone against soft skin. tears cushion my damp cheek as it rests near the patch of moss. this shrine has not been used in years, and the wood sitting on top has wilted in the rain. it is funny how the world is silent in the face of abandonment.
i turn my eyes to the stars above.
i used to come here every day, faith strong as iron in my heart as i stood steadfast, my young face turned to the seemingly unending pillar of belief in quiet awe. now, i am much older; there are bags underneath my once-sparkling eyes, and my body is tired. i do not even know why i came here. nobody can help me under these blanched columns.
my mind has not stopped whirling around in circles, and it is beyond me why i cannot grasp the confidence i felt all those years ago. how did i kneel at the base of the altar and proclaim my religion over and over again with no hesitation? how did i let myself get taken underneath that holy water with no fear of drowning? how did i study those scriptures with my whole heart, drinking in every word as if it would save my life? it seems impossible, for now i can barely lay on the ground near the statues of worship without breaking.
once i realized what i could not find here anymore, i had traveled the entire world, hoping to find another altar -- one that was full of life and light. i was so hopeful back then, hopeful in the face of heartbreak and despair. in the end, the latter triumphed, and i ended up back here, where i am today. my hair is long and my feet are swollen, and wasting away here does not seem like a poor option after all. better to die in a familiar but lost home than to die in a strange and anxious land.
i have accepted my fate. i ask the deities i once tried to find to forgive me for the sins i have committed -- it is not their fault that my eyesight is poor. i take off my cloak, the last protection i have against the elements. my sandals are lain on the ground, pressed up against the stone wall. before i lay down, however, there is one last thing i must do. i turn around, facing the altar as i once did when i was young, and beg for divinity to reveal itself to me, so i may know that i have not been forsaken my whole life.
the world still stands silent in the face of abandonment.
i lay down and breathe my last.
when the endless night rises they come alive & its all in a haze. there are cars speeding down forty-one in swathes of fluorescent streetlights & stars so distant they barely even exist but still they’re gone. they say that somewhere someone’s mama is wondering where her baby boy is but it’s in another universe that she cares.
nobody knows where they go but everybody wishes they did. down main there’s a neon ice-cream shop with soft-serve that smells like curdled milk & waxed floors & grease. if it was all tangible they’d sit in those ripped crimson booths & rub their soles on the shiny tiles but nothing that they hold in their hands ever stays.
sometimes you can see them in the old church steeple clinging to the sky. the big city is a speck from thirteen-hundred feet but the suburbs are like the ocean: all blue & worn in the moon’s lust & stretching on for miles & miles. it’s on the broken roads that they dance; the paths of family supper clubs that smoke meat early sunday morning & buzz their electric signs in the night & the county trails that lie all matted & sticky & worn from layers & layers of rainboots.
when they were little they’d gather in the middle school parking lot & swing plastic bats at tennis balls & lick cherry popsicles. the bleachers were blocks of ice but they’d scale the steps in mittens & earmuffs & jump off the other side & scuff their knees. there are still spots of blood in the gravel but by now they’ve been buried under years of snow.
it seems that they’re all just trying to hold onto their memories but they’re slipping. they’re flying. & so in the night they run & so in the night the wonder & so in the night they all try to keep themselves from forgetting the way their streets smell, the way soft-serve tastes, the way it feels to fall in love & be some young & oblivious teenager.
& sometimes if you close your eyes you can hear them, all alive & whole for a second.
the scent of eucalyptus is heavy,
lingering in the folds of flesh.
sixteen years of watching candles
drip scorching wax from the sun,
as if icarus himself was being
melted out of the sky.
like wilting lavender,
and beer bottles clinking
like broken charms
of loss and looking.
the friction of graphite in the ridges
of my identity is uncomfortable,
but not more so than the notion of
cotton thread sealing hearts closed.
three days of waiting for the
dread to be washed away.
it becomes clearer when one
ensconces everything in
pure panic and true terror,
the intimacy between
oneself and time can never
be cleanly cut away.
screams don’t echo
in the void.
tied to your ankle after
being thrown headfirst into
a sea of sirens.
fingers that remember the bite
of steel and friction
when your retinas have lost focus—
this is a song you’ve sung,
a song you shan’t forget.
one hundred eyes won’t
make it easier
to watch your back for killers,
but at least you’ll be able to
see the sun rise and set
at the same time,
wondering if there’s anything
greater than watching the day
live the life of a firebird.
a small little traveler’s tune to sing as you return home (莲花)
as i am travel bound, / wait for me to come home. /
keep my name in your gardens, / and i’ll keep yours as i roam. /
for as gold is to a flower, / and as luster is to a jade, /
i may be gone now, / but soon, i’ll be back to stay. /
time has helped us, / so now, let us share our pain: /
for all we’ve changed, / the best parts of us remain. /
like the lotus that blooms / in the hardiest of places, /
our love is one crafted / to last through the ages.
a snippet from a poem of mine
every moon was pennied for you, heads i win
tails they lose, since they're not blessed with you
loving them too. & this word wall's nothing compared
to the poetry i feel with you.
the vessel that sails among the sky
“I don’t wan’ ‘em on my ship,” Solara says. “Just throw ‘em overboard tomorrow morn’ ’n we’ll be done with it, yeah?”
“Maybe we ought to think about it a bit, Cap’n,” Lieutenant Lei answers, leaning against the desk mildly. “It’s why we called everyone prone to making’ good decisions here, ain’t it?”
Tuffy perks up, raising her hand.
Solara frowns. “Aye, everyone important and Tuffy.”
Tuffy lowers her hand.
“Zelle's taken a liking to the jay bird,” Lei fills in. “Even though all they do is sit up on the crow’s nest.”
“Zelle takes a liking to anything with a bit of a scowl and ears to listen to music,” Solara shoots back. She huffs, pulling her feet up onto her desk grumpily. “We’re talkin’ smitten if Jaybird can play a fiddle.”
“I play the fiddle,” Tuffy says.
“Tuffy, one more word out of you…”
“Give them a chance,” Aurelie starts, soothing. She puts a hand on Solara’s shoulder, raising an eyebrow. “Like you did with me.”
“All due respect, lass,” El breaks in, crossing her arms. “Capitaine took you into the crew ’cause yer pretty, ye sing well, and yer a dang mermaid. The stowaway’s just…a stowaway.”
“Maybe the stowaway can play the fiddle with me,” Tuffy says. Solara reaches towards her sword, and Tuffy backtracks. “A-aye, I meant, no stowaways on our ship, bilge rat.”
Solara sighs, pinching her nose bridge. The navy was already after her and her crew every day, and they were still tracking their bounty. Could they even afford more weight on deck?
“Jaybird could know a thing or two about the treasure map, Captain,” Lei points out, gesturing to the papers strewn about the desk. “They sounded like a dyin’ seal when the water started fill-in’ in, but they don’ look all that naive.”
“And we’re still looking for Cleor’s Chamber,” Aurelie supplies. She absently tucks a lock of Solara’s hair back into place. “Come on, Solara.”
“Uh,” Tuffy says, watching the two of them. “Are we all just, er, okay with this, or…”
“I could use another hand at the cannons, Cap’n,” El backs up, shrugging. “Jai doesn’t look half bad.”
“And if they know something about Cleor, we’re one step closer to our bounty,” Lei finishes.
“Oh, good God,” Solara says, throwing her arms into the air. “Fine. Fine! You’d think we’re nuns takin’ in strays instead of pirates on the Interstellar, blimey. Eugh. Tuffy, go get me a drink.”
“Ha! Excellent joke, Cap’n.”
“Aye aye, right away, ma’am.”
Aurelie smiles, her canines winking like pearls. “To Cleor’s Chamber?”
“To Cleor’s Chamber,” Lei nods, grinning back as she hops off the desk. “And the treasures that lie with it.”
“And the hopefully decent looking men, too,” El sighs.
“And the glory,” Solara says, standing up from her desk. She draws her sword, smiling broadly at her reflection, “that it will bring to our names.”
all aboard the ship of the stars
If a list had to be made of two things that irritated Captain Solara the most, it would be made of two understandable items: easily avoidable issues with her ship, and men. And there were no men in her vicinity as of now, so.
Solara's jaw twitches. "Repeat yourself, Lieutenant."
"Our cabin boy's insisting there's somethin' nasty caught in our nets," Lieutenant Lei supplies. She shifts from foot to foot, sheepish. "Cap'n, I really think it's oughta--"
"If Tuffy got caught in one of the cannons again, I don' wanna hear it. Just tell one of the powder monkeys to get 'er out, yeah?"
"No, Captain," Lieutenant Lei answers, shaking her head. "It's really somethin'. The bos'n thinks ye'll wants to see it."
Solara frowns. The bos'n was hesitant to entertain Tuffy as is, so if they thought it was important...
Solara sighs, fixing the brim of her hat. "Let's head over to 'em, then. Best not be wasting my time, lieutenant."
Lieutenant Lei gives a tight nod. She hoists herself over a wooden ledge, leading them over to where a majority of the crew is gathered on the deck. A net full of...something--it's too covered in bilge and sea filth to really make it out--struggles against the ropes.
A collective murmur rings out through the crew, and Solara's jaw ticks. But that's before she sees it.
"What in God's good name," Solara says, hand flying to her sword, "is that?"
Tuffy bounds over to her side, excited. "Dunno, Cap'n, but it certainly ain't God."
"It's got scales," Lieutenant Lei observes, eyes wide in wonder. "Looks like a lass, though?"
Solara makes her way through the crowd. She crouches down, peering through the net, and sure enough, the creature stares back at her with eerie human eyes. It gives a small flail, a pathetic aborted motion like a fish caught above water.
"It talk?" Solara asks, still observing the thing. It was shrouded in gold--gold scales, gold collar.
"Yes, Cap'n," Tuffy supplies, dutiful. She hesitates, clearing her throat. "Says her, uh...says her name is Aurelie."
The creature--Aurelie--stares back at her, eyes narrow and alight with something like...defiance. Solara snorts, drawing her sword. She gives a lopsided smile as the creature flinches at the sight of it.
"Get 'er some clothes, Tuff," Solara says. She tilts her head. "Sit her down in me cabin. I wanna hear this thing squeal."