The first time she steps on a slug,
her face falls into a mask of startled horror.
She hops around one one leg,
wiping her short chubby fingers
across her fat chubby foot,
and when the goo just clings to her skin,
(more) just spreads to her fingers,
she looks up
and meets your eyes across the yard.
But you just laugh at her,
because she’s a baby, after all,
and it’s summer. (less)
when we were young, we’d lie on the grass,
deep in the hidden reaches of the evening,
and we’d watch the sky fall into
soft lilac and orange and pink.
when we were young, we’d tell each other stories,
(more) and draw far-away worlds against the summer sky.
when the south wind blew, you felt something changing in the dusky shadows.
you felt a shifting.
you tried to take my hand,
but my fingers were too busy sketching
distant mountain ranges against the dead sky,
and my voice was too busy
murmuring quiet hymns to
you let our dreams fall from your eyes,
reaching out once more to me.
but when i spurned your hand, you didn’t wait for long,
going instead back inside, to warmth and light and the future.
I lay on the grass alone,
deep in the hidden reaches of the night,
and watched the sky fall into
dark purple and blue and black,
and I dreamed, oh how I dreamed!
but all my dreams were alone,
for we’d grown into different kinds of wisdom.
I am not broken, Beloved. I am not the shattered, scattered person you desire. I am whole and hale. I am dust and demons alike. I am my own strength, my own song.
I am not broken, Beloved.
And neither are you.
(more) You’ve let your fears too close, but I can see past them. I can see the flames underneath. And I stand with you. I cannot find your strength for you, but trust me, Beloved, I will not sleep until you do.
Because, Beloved, you are.
I am not broken, Beloved.
And neither are you. (less)
He talks about how if he wants to get a job working for the government, he can’t have any identifying features, so tattoos are out, and you watch the way his eyes light up and the way his lips move and the way he walks and the particular curl(more) of his hair, and you wonder how anyone could ever mistake him for someone other than himself. (less)
We’re all just stardust, boy, delicate as a new dawn, waiting for daylight to find us and make us glow.
But our skin’s too thick, boy, too thick to let the light through, and there’s a restless tragedy lurking below our hearts.
Your blood tastes like th(more)e ocean, your breath like ozone (sometimes I think you’re an angel fallen to earth). I tasted you and knew you, and you poured yourself into me, until I thought that maybe, just maybe, we could light each other.
You catch glimpses of yourself through someone else’s eyes, and are surprised by what you see.
We’re all just stardust, boy, held together by the barest connections between atoms.
Maybe it’s that our skin’s too thin, boy, too thin to contain the force that pulses with in us, and there’s galaxies swirling under our tongues.
Your hair smells like smoke, your skin like wet soil (sometimes I pretend you’re an earth spirit). I drank you in and wondered at our disparity, until I thought that maybe, just maybe, our differences could set us alight.
What you’ve seen of yourself through my eyes changes your own sight.
We’re all just stardust, boy, stardust and sawdust and ashes. (less)
you have a dragonfly heart, my love,
flitting from light to dark across my world
and I hold out my hands for you to land on,
I hold out my own heart for that brief shining second
when you take your rest within the safety
you perceive my hand(more)s to hold (less)
We stepped off the ledge, down into the pit below her temple, into the maw of the earth. As we descended, Bellona’s hair turned more and more white, and her face grew more and more lined, and her power waned.
I carried her spent form the last steps to(more) the burial chamber.
“Rest,” I told her. “Rest, and be reborn.”
Her spidery fingers, so different from the strong ones I remembered from a few minutes ago, touched my cheek.
“You are the god of fear,” she said. “I will find you again.”
I kissed her cheek gently. “I know you will, War-mother. I wait for you above.”
I ascended, leaving my faith behind me. The gods of fury and blood waited in the temple.
“Is it done?” the god of blood asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Good,” Fury sighed. “Then it is our turn.”
We went down from the hill, to our own temples at the base of the city. The gods of fury and blood bade me farewell before going to their own rest, but instead of going down, I went up. I climbed the spire on the temple to the god of fear, I climbed until it seemed that I should have broken my skull against the heavens, but they were still just out of reach.
“I wait for you, War-mother,” I whispered. “I wait.” (less)
We walked across the seasons into the city of gods. Temples reared back from the streets, their spires scraping the dome of the sky, paying homage to the gods of fear, fury, blood, the gods of darkness, shadow, dusk. Above them, on the peak of the hill, rose temples(more) to the goddesses of war and night, with the goddess of strength reigning above them all.
Bellona’s temple was old and dusty, the gilt floors cracked and broken. The silence, the emptiness swallowed our sounds, and it was like walking into a tomb.
At the center of the temple stood a statue of the goddess in her three aspects of battle, regret, peace. We stood at the feet of the statue and Bellona reached out her hand to touch her stone knee.
“If you are not the god of fear, then how have you come this far with me?” she asked softly, almost to herself.
“I have been your faith,” I said. “Your faith and your shield and your guide. I am not the god of fear. I am your weapon, your mask, your wolves.”
The goddess’s fingers tightened on the statue, and spiderweb cracks fanned out from her hand across the rock.
“Then where is the god of fear?” she demanded. “It is not possible that I have come to life without him. Fury and blood are both present. Fear is the third aspect.”
“The time has come for peace,” I whispered.
“We have not had battle.”
“But we have had regret, and peace follows regret. So goes the circle.”
Bellona lifted her hand off the statue and laced her fingers with mine. “Then let us rest,” she said. “Let us go down to peace, and sleep.”
There was a city where my village had been. It too looked like it would fall from the cliffs into the sea at the slightest breeze. Low tide stench still rose from the dead fish, the sun still beat down, the labor was still hard, the whispers still hung(more) on the air.
Everything had changed, and nothing.
We stood on the rocks where our journey had begun.
The goddess was still beautiful, but in a different way than she had been before. Her eyes were older, sadder. Her skin was lined faintly, and her hair autumn hair looked more like winter. The power still pulsed beneath her frame, refined, controlled, but as strong as ever.
“You are the god of fear,” she said to me.
“I am what I am,” I whispered.
The sea wind lifted our words from our mouths and flung them back, across the worlds we’d walked together, into the past where I was a child too bumbling and awkward to be of any use on a fishing boat.
“You are not what you were,” she said, and the war sparked again in her eyes. “You remade yourself in my light, here in the very place where we now stand. I asked you then if you would follow me. Will you still?”
“Unto the breaking of the world, though we break it ourselves.”
“Are you the god of fear?”
“I am what I made myself into.”
The god of blood was waiting for us. He ran his fingers through the goddess’s hair and the silver receded, replaced with a sickly red sheen. “We need you,” he told her. “We need war.”
“I am not yours,” she said, pushing him away. “You are mine. You(more) follow my steps.”
“We cannot find fear without war,” the god of blood hissed. “We need war.”
“What is fear?” the goddess asked him. “We are without fear, and so are they. Without fear we are stronger.”
“Without fear we are weaker! Fear is the third aspect. We need him.”
The war goddess turned her eyes away. “Fear is a coward,” she said. “Fear hides his face from us.”
“Fear cannot deny his nature any more than you can.”
But the goddess walked away from the god of blood, and I followed her. The god of blood watched us go. Each step we took away from him, the silver ran more and more thickly through Bellona’s hair.
We met the god of fury in the next city. He called out to the goddess from the heights of the city walls, beckoned her to come in and see his handiwork. His voice was manic, loud. He crouched above the gates and sowed anger and hatred throughout the(more) city.
We entered, and where the goddess walked, men drew swords, women raised knives. The war followed her, spilled out of her eyes, infected the people. Their hearts boiled over with ire, and they turned on each other.
The god of blood watched us and licked up the butchery behind us until the streets were clear and clean and the city echoed with silence.
The god of fury laughed from on high.
The War-mother dipped her fingers into the blood of innocents and drew a seal on the ground before the city gates that spoke of peace and prosperity and rebirth.
The silver glittered through her hair more strongly.
She turned to me, and her eyes were orange and gold, and the war within them had faded to a dim glint.
We walked. We walked for days and years and eternity, into the distant horizon and beyond. We walked, and we held time at bay. For as long as we walked, we knew no war, we knew no fury, no blood, no fear. She took my hand, tangled her fingers with mine. Her skin was tough and weathered.
We passed through the veil and returned. (less)
We stood on the hill beyond and watched the city burn. Flames lit the night, and dark shadows winged overhead.
The goddess put her hands on my face and said, “You see my will.”
There was a strand of silver in her autumn hair. I touched it gently,(more) and the war in her eyes dimmed for a moment.
“Are you the god of fear?” she asked, her palms warming against my cheeks.
“I was made for you,” I said. “I am yours.”
She sighed, and the war burned again. (less)