Letters to Christ I ~ All Things Bright & Beautiful

Dear Lord,

These letters have been many years in the writing, pieced together from old journals and half-hearted scribbles on the backs of till receipts and napkins; the last 16 years have been one long trial by fire; white-hot iron placed in the hands. Or a witch’s dunking, sink or swim, guilty either way.

I was going to become a priest, once. I wonder if that makes you laugh, the thought of me in the pulpit, wielding broken bottles in a spiritual war zone. Given the Revs and Fathers I grew up watching it’s clear near-terminal alcoholism isn’t actually an impediment to serving you in this way, but perhaps it’s just as well I passed on the opportunity. We still talk, you and I, and I still try to place my light in a candlestick so that it may shine rather than smother it under a bushel, but it’s not as your devoted cleric in a robe of crow-black lifting chalices to Heaven, it’s as a girl, just a girl, just a girl…

Back then, I was a willowy wraith haunting an empty chapel, I would spend hours sitting on the hard, polished pews talking to you, reading the lives of the saints, the poetry of the great mystics, listening with my headphones jammed over my ears to Hildegard Von Bingen’s Canticles of Ecstasy. Perfectly still and content like a slice of eccentric ivory in that cool, dusty vault. I spent so many hours in there, listening to the blackbirds warbling through stained glass, that I got to know all the ancient dead under their marble slabs by name. Sometimes I still dream of that church.

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Perhaps I’ve been scared to write these letters because the things I see don’t slip neatly into a collection box. They are profoundly shocking even to me sometimes, I am overwhelmed with a Love that is like an ocean with no floor; I could not use you as an excuse to judge or hate anybody, how can anyone? Whatever the supposed fulfillment of the laws of Moses, you taught nothing but Love; Love unbound from the mooring of our egos; Love unfettered by society’s judgement: who is worthy, who is better, which sinner deserves redemption, who is and is not allowed to sit at life’s long table. The Old Book is blood and vengeance and fire, but where you walk the hungry are fed, the sick are healed, and white lilies like the Magdalene’s hands spring up from your footprints in the dust.

How ludicrous it is that two thousand years after your death loving your neighbour as you love yourself is still so radical, so subversive, so likely to bring down the wrath of today’s Pharisees. But then, how painfully ironic that condemnation and cries of heresy so often follow acts and teachings of pure, transcendent Love. Do you recall the Amalricians? Burned as heretics in the 13th century for preaching that ‘all things are One, because whatever is, is God’? When does a critic separate the artist’s work from the artist themselves? When blood and sweat and insomniac hours and that fierce, burning need to birth some new creation, focused and loosed like an arrow, have directed every brush stroke? Perhaps I too am just another pantheistic heretic, seeing God in all things bright and beautiful.

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But since those days breaking like troubled storm clouds over my younger self, I’ve not lost faith in you, even when I have abandoned myself; when I have been gutter-drunk or full of futile rage or twisted, weeping, in the bedsheets like someone hanging in chains. When I am crushed up like slaughterhouse bonemeal at 4 am after 4 am after 4 am and wondering why me. There has always been that still pool in the eye of those storms, where we talk. Where the words of another great mystic of another desert faith come back to me:

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Until next time, I suppose. For all that I have and all that I am, as always, grazie mille Lord, a thousand thank yous.

~ Amice

 

 

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Event Horizon

How do I write about you.

I can say: You are a thing of dangerous and terrible beauty, gut-wrenching, half-seen in the tall grasses beneath the pine trees, vanishing into the shimmer of the afternoon heat haze. I can say: can you imagine what it’s like to sip wine from a bee’s mouth? Or become iron at the exact same moment someone else becomes North?

The coffee’s gone cold, she says: Are you okay?

I want to say: Did you ever see that film, Interstellar? Do you remember when the guy was swinging around the electric curve at the end of the universe, annihilated by the event horizon, all suffocating pressure and silent light? When everything broke into red-hot pieces until only the void remained, and still the bones of swallowed stars flew out from the abyss, because even nothing goes somewhere?

I stay silent, go to flick the switch on the kettle again. Feel again a spirit’s hair dragging like raw silk across my lips; wake to find strange eyes fashioned from fire and onyx at the end of the bed; see milk-pale wrists move in the dark like the kindest blades in the world; remember the sensation of being a heretic ablaze at the stake of my own spine.

You are the event horizon, you have become my gravity and suddenly falling – grazing knees and splitting lips – is pleasurable again. You have given me back my limbs, breathing flesh by candlelight into the hollow chapel of my ribs. You have given me back my fingertips, and the aching prettiness of my skull that will one day fall apart underground or crumble in one thousand degree crematorium heat. You have given back the Morning Star behind my eyes and the thin, soft line of white between my hair and the edge of my high collar. There are flowers blooming under my skin, gasping for one more mouthful of sweet pollen. Together we slide across celestial bodies, suspended in time that is not time, and I feel my face flush, then go cold as I understand something. I almost turn around and call for a square of glass to hold over a candle flame until it’s safe to look up…I think: of course, the pursuit of pure desire draws a halo around the moon and a shroud around the sun. You are an eclipse.

Drowning

We’re walking through the marsh together; I know, because I see a wisp of black cloth in the corner of one eye, following me. He sits me down by the ruined wall, where everything is rotten from the ground up. A sickly brown heart throbbing beneath the bricks, like a wrinkled apple. The trees don’t care, they sip up the stinking water like lovers sharing wine, growing twisted.

‘What do you want?’ His voice is soft, coaxing, but there’s something else beneath it, full of molten metal; something else in the eyes. The thing that pushed us both through those dim corridors, spiders crawling through a tunnel web, tearing clothes from one another. Teeth popping through lips, the flood of copper-mouth. I wore bruises like bracelets for days, watching them change like mood rings from blue to yellow.

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‘Nothing. Not from you.’ A wild bird is scraping at my ribcage, its wings fanning panic. My hands twitch into claws, of course I want something. I want relief. I want exorcism. I want annihilation. I know the dark mud of this place, foul as it is, would be gaspingly cold on the skin of my back. I want my limbs to shudder under those dreadful eyes. I look at the span of his hands and wonder if strangulation would be a kind of suicide.

‘I’m possessed,’ I say, my body feels like a violin string. There’s no oxygen in my blood without this; I’ve tried to burn it away under the holy light of stained glass, my face serene as a crocodile. I want something to crack and let my soul escape. I want sin written across me in thumbprints.

‘I can comfort you.’

Down, down. Into the nauseous heart of the dark water.