Spring

There you are. Your skin’s impeccable smell, the beeswax whiff of it. The rustle of your limbs around my skull, like the turn of a page progressing along a two-voice tale. Your scent returns as a ripple. You who are my week, my gristle. Hop into the space I’ve opened between my hands, rest there in your figurative purrs. I have said before that I cannot hold these leaves open on my own, that the space I gave once deadened the brass in me, but your air still reverberates with the uncanny sensation of feathers dipped in gold.

Listen. Your whole body is a whisker. Love has caused these ribbons to tighten inside my skin, hold me upright in false and disconcerting ways, and your response was this: yes, I too am tired of running, running in this way that feels like falling between loosened sheets of earth. Yes, you said, my whole body is a whisker. Let me give you the water I’ve wrung from my hair, cup your ears and catch its languid syllable curd. Begin a benevolent trade between soil and atmosphere. Yes, I too am tired of the blackened wick, the missing glue between things. We have seen what your eyes can do; we have both been on the cusp of your fire.

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The Angel

The Angel has a body smooth as a pebble washed over by relentless tides, rubbed free of features by the suspended palpitation of drops he calls home. There is no hair anywhere on him, his skin is without veins, milky as jade. Nothing about him can be held on to, no part of him likely to get caught. 

His self is tectonic, contained entirely in his visible, superficial parts. Everything about him is external, even his skeleton, which is interwoven with what serves as his skin. This skeletal mesh is made from a lightweight mineral, as good as hollow. No bodily fluids course their way through him, only the ceaseless traversal of air. His body is an empty cavity, bearing no organs, no heart, no brain. Despite all this emptiness, his body is virtually unbreakable.

When he manifests in his physical form to those who are not angelic, he does so in visions or dreams, and always for the purpose of delivering a message. He has never approached someone else for the sake of communion, or the solace of intimacy, but only so as to reveal something to them. The meeting is always one-sided, and after appearing in a bodily form, adorned with human features, or animal ones, or even as a celestial cluster, he disappears again, leaving those he visited to ponder what they were just told.

His favourite way to appear is on hot summer nights, as a wavering shadow on a bedroom wall.

But it doesn’t matter which structure he uses to appear to others, because in many ways he is always unsubstantial. The world he inhabits could not contain him otherwise, and he would fall right through the limpid boundaries of his home. 

Once, the Angel appeared to a man who lived alone in a small room in a town overrun with students. The man tried to trap the Angel in one of the communal shower cubicles, and succeeded in keeping him there behind glass for nearly three days. During those three days, the man visited the Angel frequently, and sat silently watching him without asking a thing. The Angel, in his confusion, forgot to deliver the message he’d been assigned. This had never happened to the Angel before, nor has it happened since. Nothing in the physical realm has the power to trap him, and yet this man’s glass cubicle seemed to interrupt the state of things for a while. 

The Angel thinks back to this time, the terror of encountering physical resistance in a way that is otherwise totally foreign to him. 

The Angel’s body, being hollow, has a lot of room for the dance of emotions. They swirl almost ceaselessly in the cavity of his rump, like immortal butterflies with their absurdly oversized wings. While he experiences feelings on a nearly continuous basis, the Angel lacks the capacity to express them. This is fine. As a celestial being, there is no need to communicate his emotions to anyone else.

None of his emotions can be expressed in gestures or words, but they all float and knock against each other inside him, sometimes with enough force to form temporary composites. This results in confusingly mismatched emotions, which the Angel observes with a chuckle: fear coupled with erotic attraction, sadness blended with disgust, joy combined with intense regret. The Angel watches these emotions flutter and burn in a varicoloured display. 

Sometimes people ask him where he keeps his wings at night, and if they fold. How does he sleep, they wonder. 

He doesn’t respond to this, in part because his purpose is to deliver a message, not answer such proxies for existential concerns. He hesitates to break the spell; illusions are important to people, they keep their lives interesting and worthwhile. Spells promote a sense of hope in the inherent meaningfulness of the world, which is what allows people to remain vertical.

Without this meaning-making glue, people would collapse into a spreadable mass, and the Angel knows it would be cruel to tell them the truth, that he doesn’t have wings, that the feathery offshoots they see unfurling behind him are no more than the waste products his body sloughs off in its efforts to make itself lighter and lighter, that it is these very waste products that keep him light and that they are no more palpable or noteworthy than the clouds that wash him clean.

The Angel knows how easy it is for humans to get confused about their own narratives, a confusion born from the visceral heaviness of their ability to wish. This is perhaps the only emotion the Angel cannot feel: the closes he gets to wishing is feeling erotic attachment towards something, which can occur towards anything at all, material or not; but even so, because no emotion is ever expressed, there is no room anywhere in the Angel’s psyche for regret, an emotion he knows is human, and tied to the ability to wish.

He has seen the power of wishing in humans, when their whole bodies are arched towards the sound of the thing they desire. He watches these domed, flexible bodies, and worries that one day they may snap in half from their unresolved urges. 

The Angel takes his job very seriously, though the work he does is more of a vocation, truly something of a calling. The most consistent part of his appearance is the voice through which he conveys the message he is given. His voice is the most important part of his performance, because he knows that humans, whether they admit it or not, are drawn to or repelled by the content of language based on the sounds that contain it.

Each time he appears, he rounds off the edges of his voice, muffling it into a pleasing blur. Because he is empty of organs, he speaks the way a trumpet does, using an external breath, which passes in compression through his ringing body. The breath entering him exists all around him, and never stays inside him long enough to become part of his person.

Aside from his purpose, which lies in delivering a message, doing the bidding of an unreachable, disembodied force, the Angel has a lot of free time, not that he is bound to such concepts. Still, he divides his own infinity, so as to make it more bearable. He opens his eyes at the same time each day, then closes them again after a determined chunk of time has elapsed so as to create an artificial night. The Angel likes to segment what is otherwise as unstructured as a clear sky. Infinity is made more bearable by the interruptions and seemingly serendipitous patterns of clouds.

The Angel knows that what is most beautiful about him is not his appearance, but the movement of air as it passes through his crystalline body, rushing through his inner void on its own fluttering path. The only good the Angel ever does is temporarily shape the air he inhabits. 

Salvador Dalí, Angel, 1958

Un Être en Vertige

L’être voué à l’eau est un être en vertige. Il meurt à chaque minute, sans cesse quelque chose de sa substance s’écoule. La mort quotidienne n’est pas la mort exubérante du feu qui perce le ciel de ses flèches ; la mort quotidienne est la mort de l’eau. L’eau coule toujours, l’eau tombe toujours, elle finit toujours en sa mort horizontale. […] la mort de l’eau est plus songeuse que la mort de la terre : la peine de l’eau est infinie. […] 

Gaston Bachelard, L’Eau et les rêves, Essai sur l’Imagination de la Matière.
John William Waterhouse, Circe Invidiosa, 1892

Exquisite

You told me to go through the garden and find the thing that was most like myself, and so once I was alone I walked through the vegetation, looking. I walked through the high grasses and my feet folded their blades into more complicated shapes. I walked and the pebbles flicked out from under me. I walked close to the water, past reeds that gorged themselves on its pools, past driftwood with intricate reliefs, rocks intensely veined, birds rotund with song. I walked past exquisite lilies, past the structural devotion of pines, every part of me looking in this beauty for a resonance.

After a while, the rain fell hard into my hair and I hid in the undergrowth, crawling between streams of ivy, my hands smeared with lichen and wiped clean again by neon pads of moss, until a low clearing emerged and I leaned against the striated bark of a cherry tree. Its cauterised marks embossed themselves into my back and this damaged being seemed to me such an obvious mirror I decided this was it. Having completed my task, I closed my eyes until the rain let up. 

But when I crawled out after a while to hold my hand into the air and check for drops, I saw further down the path a cluster of dried grey twigs growing bare, clipped and idle from the earth, and the part of me that wishes I could just exist in my true and unadorned mediocrity felt understood. I weaved myself, with great cost to my personal boundaries, between the brittle twigs, making my body as boneless as it could be, and there I breathed the shallow breath of deferral until the day went dark and you returned to me. When you asked me what I had learned, I told you I would have to think about it deeply, and tell you once I understood.

Not like now

heaven is insufficient / you know too well it’s paradise

you want // where we are bodies, extemporised and full

of melting splinters /// fondness consumed

amidst animals and trees, our colours all coiled

in embrace //// you think the white light of love is a quiet

bath of bliss, so immaterial, the inscrutable

everlastingness of it ///// paradise is heaven

with lungs, but you say there is no return

to a place of breath and sublimity ////// our grunting cannot blend 

with the birds’ capacity for speech, not in the damp 

chill of the shade after our dying /////// you bit me, and I know

I bit you in turn, betraying pale matter below

the sun-reddened skin //////// not here, and not now

paradise is incarnate, but this ongoing heaven

is bland, a doorway of bodies / peeled off

and hung up like garb //////// that which we want

is deep / and bright / and unlikely

it already slipped once / and you

tore out your lungs / saying

////////// that was enough

His Bedding of Flowers and Bones

Edward Burne-Jones, Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, 1861-2

Depictions of this sort do little to undo my unfounded and completely sentimental conviction that the Minotaur is somehow a child to whom appalling things happen because of his monstrous appearance and the somewhat psychotic conclusions it generates in the minds of those in charge of his person. He’s a bull, yet he’s a monster, so surely he will not subsist on grass alone; they decide his diet will therefore consist of nothing but virgins.

This week, associations between flowers and bones have been, if not scattered across my bedroom floor, at least at the forefront of my mind, so if nothing else this post is proof that I am capable of something resembling consistency, yay.