saw cards marked in heaven.
Thought themselves star-wise.
Still, my quill didn’t quaver.
I kept to my cell, not to give
time of day to the end times:
God comes when he will.
I sat a sceptic and prayed
enough I was – even now
no end’s in sight for this orb.
Ælfric knew it: how the sun
can cut out moonlight,
how earth’s shadow turns
a full moon black. He saw
the truth about star-craft:
God made these lamps to light
all that he made forever –
two lamps that fire the flame
in my candle as I write, spit
beeswax onto parchment,
burn down my wick to an end…
Based on De Temporibus Anni by Ælfric of Eynsham
Small People on High Horses
Don’t fucking call me Tina. The name’s Tena. TEH-nuh. Like Jenna but with a “T”. I was lucky enough to be born to a seventeen-year-old who kept her legs open like she had something to dry. Not only was I terribly lucky, I was also an asshole. “Fifty-five hours!” Natalie cried out whenever she could make a conversation appropriate enough to talk about childbirth. “Fifty-five hours that little shit over there,” she’d always point at me with a poorly self-manicured finger, “sat where the sun don’t shine, taking her sweet ass time to make an entrance.” Ma would then say something about how the sun shined there all too often. Apparently in the delivery room, Dad made some comment about how “tenacious” of a baby I was, and whatever bone or organ that gave a person a bad idea churned in Natalie and she said, “That’s it. That’s the name of my first-born child.”
So here I am, nineteen years later on the eve of my first figure skating gold medal with a chip on my shoulder over a goddamn name. Tenacity. I started skating when I was five, and I was fucking terrible. Many athletes grew up with raw, natural-born talent. They were hunks of marble, sparkling and waiting to be carved into David. They were the unpainted ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, unchiseled Venus de Milos, the light sources of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, the sketch of Mona Lisa’s smile. While the prodigies glided through their spiral and effortlessly landed their first waltz jumps, I fell on the ice, bruised on the ice, and cried on the ice. I was Holofernes’ sawed-off head – the head of Goliath, Jean the Baptist. But over the years, I worked hard. I fell, I bruised, I cried, until I made something of myself. It wasn’t so much that I was determined or resilient as it was that I was afraid. I owe my success to Ma’s belt, and how she always made sure to use the end with the buckle.
The Spectre of All Things
Every five years or so
a monster would be born in angel country,
this is what was said to me:
and so we wait, the seasons
spooling behind us like loose thread,
calling for hardness like a prophet.
I’m told something beautiful is coming,
because of you. A silence every morning
before the noise begins.
A hush in the goats’ shed. It lives where I live.
My coats damp, heavy as a plague --
and a woman says when I first heard of it
I had a friend dig it out with a hunting knife.
How I am too afraid to believe that
the whispers in the fields are all about my belly,
about my blood. How, the year before it happens,
men’s fists break like shatter-lamps.
How the iron cracks and the bones
are sawn off with fishhooks, and the ground is
winter-wet, and the earth comes up to meet them
when they fall.
In this snow-shocked, hard-toothed land,
too far from anything to know, the dark comes
like a violet artery. It comes quick. I think of
to taste what light was left on me by the mark --
It’s hours of false-night, cold. And outside, I walk
to clutching hands, to faces turned to me
or to the black-flat sky like hunger to a spoon.
Their eyes too close,
the wind dropping to a murmur,
born good, made wrong.