With trespass charmed, what creature seeks to dare
The stony confines of the leopard’s cage
And with courageous lungs to steal the air
Made bitter-sweet incense, steeped with her rage?
‘Tis but a mouse, she sighs – though clever be
His paws, and quick his tail, and sleek his ears,
And bright his little eyes – no more than he,
Who’d brave her vicious claws in all these years.
A tiny thing, that turns great beast undone;
Far smaller than the heart that finds to range
Beyond its bars a love surpassed by none.
Surprising tenderness, though source be strange –
A man in body, mind; in soul, a waif.
Poor cat, who’d catch a mouse to keep it safe.
Copyright (C) Vox Mortuum 2013
I feel a terrible envy of my own work, that it captivates your attention this afternoon and I do not.
Here, I shrug wryly.
Went through my closet again today, finding things that are ready to be given to Goodwill or outright thrown away.
I stood in my closet today… there is a crushed velvet ankle length black dress. It has black velvet-covered buttons down the front. I’ll have to alter the dress to fit me now — it’s way too big through the waist.
Everywhere else, it fits well.
I’m especially interested in this dress because it has two rows of loops down the back, intended for lacing. The original lace has been lost; I don’t care much, because I intend to replace it with white reflective paracord. Alter the dress until it’s snug, cinch it tight, tie it in a pretty little bow right at the base of my spine.
I don’t have anywhere to wear this dress yet. Maybe by the end of this coming January, I will.
Frustrated and nervy today; my time with the Muse was over too quickly. Not yet time to begin the next; not yet time to edit the one in between. Frustrating.
I cannot let time defeat me. I cannot freeze in the present because it is not yet the future. I cannot spend so much time longing for what I can’t have that I forget to pursue what I may still win.
But the determination is bitter in my mouth and dry as ashes. I’d give a lot to have peace right now, instead of weeks or months in the future.
You think this is a war-time thing; I don’t argue, not aloud. I pass you back the hand-rolled we’ve been sharing. I watch you curl your palm around it to block the cherry-glow. We’re deep down in the muddy trench now but you don’t let that make you stupid.
One of the things I like about you. One of the very many things.
This only seems like a war-time thing because it’s between two warriors, and the conditions under which two warriors meet is often war. We don’t give it a name; none of the easy ones fit. And who would we describe it to?
Those who know it would understand without a name. Those who can’t understand will never know.
You sit across from me in the trench, to my left just a little. The tiny glow reflecting in your hand shows me the deep hollows under your eyes, the lines of worry and fatigue.
I wish I could reach my hand through the space between us and smooth those lines and those shadows away.
I know I can’t, for many reasons, but it helps to know that my presence here across from you can allow you to relax somewhat. You know I’m watching over your left shoulder. You know that I’m capable of appropriate response, and that my vigilance over your safety will not falter.
You know I’ll take out whatever comes over that next rise, before it can even think of laying a hand on you. You trust so completely that I’ll protect you… especially from myself.
Your God in his forming of you could not have taken any more care than I do, when I sit across from you, because he had greater confidence in his own skill and because his will and his purpose were united. All my wit and my power are still merely mortal gifts. My wish and my purpose are at odds.
You exhale; your breath is warm. I think of ten thousand words that crowd on the back of my tongue, unsaid, barely dreamt. Ten thousand words to take my mind and heart and spread them before you as a brilliant tapestry carpet, luxurious under your tread. Ten thousand words to show how deeply you are valued, treasured, held as precious…
Unsaid. For what I wish to lay around your shoulders, lighter than a winter coat, might instead close around your neck like a noose.
And that must not be.
You pass the cigarette back; for not the first time I burn my fingertips getting them too close to the coal, carefully keeping our skins separate. You look over my left shoulder, even though we’re deep down in the trench. You never let it make you stupid.
I put the cigarette to my lips; I inhale the trace of you in it along with the tobacco smoke. I curl my hand around the cherry-glow. I think of ten thousand names for you, all the ones that die in my throat before my mouth can give them treacherous shape — all the ones that die silent in my heart, never even brave enough to reach my throat.
I look up again and your eyes are on my face and your gaze is calm. And I’m glad that I can give you at least that much.
The war-time thing. The give-and-take kind of love. The left-shoulder watch. The shared cigarette. I drop my stare, laughing once on the exhale; the air is cold enough to hurt on the next drawn breath. I can feel your smile but you don’t bother asking. Sometimes you don’t have to know why; you can just take it as is.
One of the very many things I like about you.
The little hand-rolled is almost gone. In a minute here I’ll stand up, head kept low, and walk away like I always do. The right-hand hem of my trench-coat will brush across your knees and I’ll feel a savage envy at its presumption.
But before I do I feel the urge to do something problematic — to put the cigarette out on the back of my free hand perhaps, to mark my skin on the outside the way you’ve marked it on the inside. To feel a pain that I can trust will someday fade.
I open my mouth instead. You shut your eyes. I murmur to your trusting flesh:
On your midnight pallet lying,
Listen, and undo the door:
Lads that waste the light in sighing
In the dark should sigh no more;
Night should ease a lover’s sorrow;
Therefore, since I go to-morrow,
Pity me before.
In the land to which I travel,
The far dwelling, let me say–
Once, if here the couch is gravel,
In a kinder bed I lay,
And the breast the darnel smothers
Rested once upon another’s
When it was not clay.
At the end your smile’s more blinding than the cherry-glow; shoot now, sniper, let me have that ounce of lead.
Not a war-time thing, I disagree silently as I stand, head kept low. If I’d met you in this field when it was sweet with tall grass and flowers, I would not have cherished you any less.
I walk away like I always do… do your eyes linger a moment, before you resume your watch? Do you let yourself get a little stupid, just then while my attention’s not on you?
If you did you’d see me flick the smouldering cigarette up and out of the trench and pray to my own gods that the wind take it high and far, that the fire we shared here could start some towering inferno elsewhere, devouring the darkness of the world.
Dear Muad’Dib… tonight I certainly have the devil in me, but not to the extent I could wish.
Still, I must congratulate myself on my magnificent self-restraint and self-denial. Why, I hardly did anything I really wanted to do today. Several things that needed to get done were done, and several that advance my causes on multiple fronts.
But very little that I *desired*.
I stood by my car today, Muad’Dib, and watched a man shift back and forth from one foot to the other — and I saw a being who simultaneously wanted something too much to fear it properly, and feared something too much to want it properly.
And I did the correct thing — I sent him away before I could do an incorrect thing.
But oh, how it stings!
Tonight I think about this particular time of the month… the new moon, the dark of the moon.
Why, what’d you think I meant? *wry smile* Dark time, dark thoughts. I did well for a while — the person across the table from me pushed the conversation to a very cerebral place (despite his stated wishes otherwise) and I was content there, almost disembodied. I was the monstrous eye that could view itself, could speak entirely in concepts.
And then I was slipping back down again, feeling my body like a poorly-fitted garment, jittering around the energy that would threaten to break free.
Sometimes I’m not okay, Muad’Dib. And if you think that this letter has been particularly dangerous, simply imagine for one little breathless and terrifying moment all the things I have *not* said.
Well, I thought. This is how the world works. All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him. He knew. He knew all along.
Dear Muad’Dib… I apologize again for having to come to you with my current dysfunctions and my surprisingly noisy emotions. I know you don’t work on a zero-sum game, but I still don’t wish to overwhelm you or strain your tolerance.
And the advice I gave, although I dumped it on you in a single go, was with the best of intentions, whatever that may be worth. I hear the road to hell might be paved with them. I wouldn’t know — I slept through the journey and when I woke up, I was already here.
I speak in the words of others, when there’s little wisdom in using my own.
Two things cross in my mind today, saying opposite things, saying maybe the same things:
Song of Songs, chapter 8, verse 1-2.
and this song.