By Sophie Lai
This piece was published in our 2017-18 edition, The Blue Book.Purchase our past editions at local book stores.
The water is iceless.
But iceless. So fathom to its bed, look at the weeds,
The mud, the undisturbed stones you threw in as a child. They’re still here,
Your ghosts. Every one of them.
(But you didn’t mean it then!)
I know what you want to do.
(Jump. You always escape, don’t you?)
Oh, we’re not fools—no fools have lived as long as we. We’re here to push you back, shove your shoulder,
Bruise your collarbone in shades of magenta. Life in pink, no?
We are your fantasies, your phantasms, your banshees of the mind.
(So don’t jump. We’ll catch you.)
We wandered the fields of Asphodel long after they destroyed us.
Oleanders crushed beneath our feet, venom seeping through our soles
Into our hearts, my being, my psyche. O do not blame me, sisters,
For my vitality. I am bitter but I am alive,
Can you blame me?
Can you say you would not do the same?
Like cinnabar we stain you
(And I more than others—but sisters, do understand.)
Rust red, tainted blood. Let us pull petals from that corrupted rose.
Watch your life drain from you in viscous syrup, dripping from your head,
Dripping from your eyes, as the husk separates from the grain,
Give Bartholomew my regards.
Sisters, do you hear me?
Our voices are a chorus of solos. Do not depart me, but help me
Suffocate their faith, reach into their humanity with our talons,
And tear out those basest horrors.
(Tell me more!)
I’ll beat a swift staccato on my frigid chest.
Ungodly. That’s what we are.
Hear the fluttering wings of the sacred and profane.
cum illi pueri dicerent: Σίβνλλα τί ϴέλεις;
respondebat illa: άπο ϴανεΐν ϴέλω
(Please don’t try to flee. Just let us in.)
Divine intervention is vile—we are more merciful than your Apollo,
Your Mithras. War, adultery, defamation, treachery—things you cannot face yet cannot avoid.
We saw behind Asphodel the fiery waters of the Phlegethon and the walls of Tartarus,
All shattered glass and coal, crushed into a mile-thick layer of agony. Let us help you,
Us, just us. Better our malice now than to face the brutality of the afterlife.
(So come. Open the doors, call off your gods.)
Look beneath the frosted trees at yourself,
Unfold their leaves, unbolt the locks to the abyss which ripples in the wind.
Walk back, slowly. When you feel the night bite the boils on your arms, you’ll find me.