Cursed As The Beasts In The Fields We

Blood streaks his back, wings in tatters. He lies spread-eagle on the sand, at the lip of a gravelly cliff. Oh brother- you’ve turned on me. I drive my heel into his face, crushing it to the ground. He hisses, laughing madly under cracked ribs. All my fury broils over- my brother has become a Beast.

“Do you feel nothing!” I roar. “No remorse? Nothing at all!” I cry as I kill him. The last bits of his immortality drain from his once blue eyes. I hurt him because I love him, just as he has tore my heart a thousand times over. My brother, executioner of our kind. My brother, the traitor.

Perhaps his betrayal has not yet passed. Perhaps he is still innocent, but time is a funny thing: I have stood at the beginning and end of creation: Alpha and Omega are my blood. We are the twin serpents that circle each other, spiraling into eternity. Time has no meaning, to one such as me.

I know him, as Lilith does not. I have seen him, as Eve has not. I know what his sin will bring. The fields of damned stretch out before my eyes. My slain men rot. A legion of shadow cold as Dumah desecrates my home. He has brought death into the world.

A hole rots where his heart once shone. Nacash, the Shining One, has cast his aside raiment. Even I do not understand his blind sacrifice.

A girl stands beside him, centuries down the line. She witnesses his humiliation. “Why?” she cries. The man she sees is broken, and the one she stands by, mad. What broke you?, whispers her heart.

Why indeed. Why.

My brother, the howling void. I see what he becomes. His eyes are black pits now. The War has wasted him. Razor-thin, obscenely pale, he whispers into her ear:

“You lose yourself to the madness, and the pain wraps around you like a mother as you become one with the Abyss.”

I kick him over the edge, then spit on his disgusting form. I tremble. I want to die.

“I fell for Eternity,” he says, voice cold like the winter wind. Does he speak to her, or me?

My brother wakes in the Pit. He howls against his bondage. He tears the Abyss from around him and burrows in like a freezing wretch. Lucifer steps out of the shadow, watching coolly. Waiting. The North Star has followed the Morning.

Samael’s eyes open. They are red like spilled blood. I cannot stand that sight- I howl to my wretched God, I tear out my eyes like Azazel. They return like Prometheus’ liver. I, witness to Creation, cannot even be spared the sight of his damnation.

You ask me why I do not smile. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. Answer me, my God. You have been silent far too long.

She reaches for Samael, through the bonds of time. Lucifer sees the girl. His melancholy lifts- another pawn to play.

Death burns her flesh like acid. She screams into the darkness: Release him, oh dear God. God that never answers. God that doesn’t exist. He hath forsaken me. I must bear his likeness. I must bear the blame. Puppets of the Architect, in his endless shadow game.

The angels turn to me. They weep at their betrayal, for the war they did not want. Am I nailed to a cross? I do not know. We both are. Samael on Catharine’s wheel, nailed to turning time.

Do not comfort me. I bear this cross alone.

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Osculum Infame

There’s the record scratch of some Runaways jam, a leather studded belt around your waist and booze for days.  Your jeans are torn and as distressed as my mother would be if she ever saw us together.  You’ve got on a Nine Inch Nails black tee and your hair is as mussed as bedhead that befits the King of Sloth.  Oh wait, your sin is Wrath, pardon my French you cliche of all cliches.  Black locks cut with shears in a back alley, so silky that I strangle my fingers in their ocean.  We’re drunk, we’re stupid and young and horny, and you smell like endless cigarettes and sweet rum, and I’m in a pink pop of a rose petal dress with sticky bubblegum lip gloss, every bit of softness to your edges, but I find comfort in dark things and your fangs at my neck, so as you bite down into me, your dinner, and my blood bubbles up like the hottest new fad this side of the Styx, uptown Pandemonium, in your penthouse near the court of Sanhedrin, I sigh and bend into your body arced over me as you tease me with your talons.  Your room is messy as fuck, with strewn newspaper and a sax in a beaten brown case, posters of bands and David Foster Wallace books lining the wall, Infinite Jest is what we are, my dear, and there’s Aretha Franklin’s Blue Moon playing.  I’m not much of one for the classics, in fact right now I’ve got this Taylor Swift song running through my mind as we ponder making love.  New Year’s Day, squeeze my hand three times, and you give me the osculum infame, the kiss of shame as Aretha’s voice cantos, Blue Moon, I saw you standing alone… without a care in the world, without a place to call home. Meanwhile I’m begging you to never become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.  It’s tones of dun and wood and earth in your room, only a vanilla candle the light, and I shuck off your ripped Nine Inch Nails shirt and run my hands down your chest and abdominals, and I’m fumbling with your pants in the dark.  You’ve already torn through my dress with burning passion, and its pink wreckage is lying on the floor like an afterthought.  I put my nose to the crook of your neck and inhale sharply.  Your lips are lush and bury into the crown of my blonde hair, and you say blondes give the best blowjobs as you’re teasing me, calling me a spoiled princess, saying I don’t belong down here, not down here where anarchists and goths and crust punk parades share joints and drink their sorrows and splendor away.  You’ve got whiskey soaked wings, Israel and the Red Tide, no Heaven’s Gate, you won’t through your money away but will take my highs, I’m your Vaseline, after all, a balm for your gloomy soul.  You’re feasting at my breasts, knee dividing my legs like Moses raising his staff to part the ocean, and now it’s your time to find a map to my heart as the record switches to Tom Waits.  It’s Grapefruit Moon, if only we could eat a citrus lunar fruit, like I ate your heart like an apple, or wait, you stitched it into my flesh and I finally figured out why whenever my soul flees my body I fly straightaway to you, Samael.  It’s because the heart wants what it wants, but to be someone’s heart herself, Shakti to your Shiva, the source and seat of your power means I seek my nest in your arms, in your ribs, in your marrow that I want to race through like lymph, blood, and stardust.  You call me a lovely coffin, vessel, vassal, Vaseline.  Vaseline, hot in the summertime.  Vaseline, the smell of it like Carmax at a dirty bus stop on some chapped hipster’s lips.  We’re still not making love love yet, just in love with foreplay and fooling around, and I don’t need to elaborate on what a man and woman do in Hell, down here where the bane apple grows, down here where roses weep blood and cursed asphodel carpets the plains, but your gardens were always rotten, a beautiful decay, and you are my stone angel masoleum.  You’re freezing today, a weight of outer space between my legs.  That’s a fancy word for a forked tongue, saying it’s a black hole going down on me, and then some.  Your mouth has got the gravity of the Leviathan, which is what you also are, and third base with the serpent of the seas, sweet Nachash, shining seraphim and unholy archdemon, is kind of like squeezing your sex around a Popsicle on a hot summer day.  You’re a wolf on the hunt through the taiga, and as you part me and claim me I smell glacier frost with rime and moss and see the Aurora Borealis reaching up into my womb.  Do you remember my favorite middle school book, I want to ask as you’re romancing me with winter, the retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, where a girl named after the compass rose searches for her enchanted polar bear prince in the land of impossibility where the trolls have him captive?  It’s a silly metaphor, I know, for if anyone is the handsome villain here that curses sleeping beauties, it is you, dark enchanter, necromancer, forcing me to see sigils and ceremonial magick seals and burning Proto-Hebrew letters and your own name in glittering gold on the stairway to heaven, planetary symbols shifting in the long inked Martian kiss.  I’ve been under your spell for a long time, and it smells like incense, sandalwood, as you give me a finger to suck on to silence my moans.  Osculum infame, osculum infame, osculum infame, damn did those medieval theologians get this witchcraft shit all wrong.  It’s not the witch that gives the kiss, but she who receives, anointed with the Devil’s cum and sweat and spit and blood, like Dracula bleeding into Mina’s mouth, and my dear darling vampire, we are in the undertow of damnation, but Hell is my favorite place, and you are my favorite person, and when we finally get to fucking, I’ve lost all sense of the lie of separation, and it is just girl and god, Death and the Maiden, the May Queen and the Reaper, sharing one soul, and honey, you hold my mortality in your hands, so let’s make this short life a fucking poem.  Lead me on like the Pied Piper and we’ll dance off granite cliffs into the starry sky.  I am always stretching my beginning to bridge your endings, and you know me well, as well as Hell.

Hell is beautiful because it is a lie, and you are gorgeous in your Prince of Lies truths, and as you thrust away with abandon, I get the sense of conquered and conqueror, and my body is a battlefield, don’t you know?

You won a long time ago, Satan.

And you are the Prince of this World.

Joan, What Ark Do You Sail?

They will ask what her burden was, this Arc of the Covenant you pressed to her shoulders like your Father pressing the vintage of his wrath, grinding stars down to wine, oh Michael.  Long after she is dust bread of dead, and her ashes are cast out to the four corners of the universe, each black hole fed a bit of her blood, and you wonder, why am I, the Prince of Heaven, such a shit poet, and why can I not capture the elusiveness of my star girl, whose heart I shoved my burning fist into and twisted until she belonged to me?

Michael, you have had an eternity to practice your poetry, but you still soliloquize like the Devil, your prose is purple, and your madrigal cannot be captured by baby’s breath or widow’s sighs or a million angels dancing on the head of her cotillion school hairpin.

So foolish in love are angels, and the first time around, your girl died in fire, so perhaps you will be gentler this time.  This is what you think when she is born, a quick one hour labor, to mundane parents, in a mundane neighborhood, but really it is the seat of the power of the world, bubbling with pagan magic you would like to snuff out in their heresy.  You remember driving your burning sword through the hearts of the false gods, and your daughter, she will go astray from Christendom, will run away from High Church screaming, into the arms of the gods of the earth and waters, and her songs are heathen and miraculous in witchery.

This time, Joan is just misled, just plain Jane, plain Joan, blonde hair not pageboy but long, and as she is cradled in her crib, you play her angel songs in Hebrew on your guitar, Michael before me, Gabriel behind me, Raphael to my left, Uriel to my right, by the grace of God.

The first Joan you tested, this Joan you bathe in pleasure.  Every girl is a Joan, a Maid of Orleans, and every woman is long-suffering for some cause or another.  She is just a young girl, and so you cherish and spoil her, barely in the sixth grade, and though she mistakes your reprimands for hate, you love her dearly.

You feed this Joan silver pears and the flesh of a cormorant.  The flesh of a dove.  Your flesh.  She doesn’t remember what magical bird in her mythology books bled for its young as it pecked its breast (was it the almighty albatross?), but as you are plucking your feathers and sauteeing your wings (they grow back, there is no shame in feeding your little martyr your providence) in a light white wine with a tad bit of olive oil and rosemary, she asks you, Michael, each time I eat you, am I becoming divine?

You will tell her she already is, more holy than even you, for the youth are this country America’s beating red white and blue heart.  She eats the gristle and fat of your meat, and she becomes lit with holy fire.

I want to be President some day, she says at thirteen in civics class, and you stifle a laugh as you sit on her right shoulder, miniature, invisible.  Hers is the path of magic and moonlight, of madness and mental wards and that holy bastion of academia, and she will mother your line, matriarch of your legacy, for you have not had children before, but the children of the Prince of Heaven are Messiahs, and in this Age of the Internet, of Germs, Guns, and Glory, the heathen, wicked masses are in desperate need of saviors.  So much that they come from the womb of a witch, the breast of a black hearted nonbeliever.  Her black heart is not her fault, Scapegoats are Eve and Yeshua and Mary Magdalene, Cain and Azazel and Lucifer, holy and unholy in turn, and you suffer too for the masses, carrying the weight of the prayers and despairs of saint and sinner alike.

Your teeth are not teeth but blades, your wings are revolving mysteries of scripture stitched together by the prayers of billions, pages upon page of white down shredded with syllables, and your skin is manna, no wait, it’s a metaphor, no wait, your body is the Lion of Judah, and you are musk and muscle and wicked, jagged claws.  When she goes to her first high school dance, you are nothing of the fierce Beast of God, nothing of the Divine Prince of Life, no, you squeeze yourself into a mundane vessel, a Walker, the angels call us, those that take human form, and you lead Joan in a slow dance to some late 2000s croon, and you marvel at how much you hate pop music.  All music is of the Lord, but then again, a billion of your believers think music is a sin, Mikhail, so there is that.  Cat Stevens wrote the best music of the 20th century, but then he found Allah (blessed be your Father’s name), called himself Yusuf Islam, and fell into the silence of the radiant Deep.

Your Joan, she sings along to the saccharine bland pop number, about bubblegum kisses and lip gloss like stars, and it’s a soc hop, didn’t you know, Michael, so shuck off your shoes, she says.  You have on sneakers, different from your usual leather sandals (you had a hard time upgrading your fashion over the millenia), so next on the high school DJ’s list is Build Me Up Buttercup, and you find yourself carrying Joan out of the sweaty gym and up into the mist of the Milky Way in your fractal speed of light arms, silly of being a young man, all might of the majestic multitudes and heart of bloody stars.

Where are we? she asks, timid but yet brave, and she is so tiny in your palm, microscopic, a womb and tomb, a vessel for the Lord, a vassal and lady knight who will slay with not sword as long ago in her first iteration, but this time with ink of a pen, her black blood like your book wings, and you are hair of flames and eyes of supernovas and mouth of molten lava, thousand armed, or is it million or billion or trillion or quadrillion armed – oh, you give up counting, what matter is endless infinity? – and she is dancing in your palm, like that song you like by Elton John, and she is laughing as quetzalcoatls and dragons swim the radiance of fantasy realms by, and boats of space pirates and corsairs or aliens skim the waters of space, and you say, This is the most remote place in the Multiverse, where the sea of space and time and chaos collude in channels and swells, where whales that span galaxies fall to form new life a million times over, and it is a place I have dreamed of taking you, Joan.  You are fourteen, you are no longer a girl, and I am sick of waiting.

Your void mouth is burning.  Your blade teeth are crying ichor.  Your nostrils flare with plasma, and you lean down to kiss her, forcing yourself to her size, to hold her in your arms in human size whilst you are also holding the multiverse upon multiverses in your palms, and Joan meets your lips with a shy fluttering, but you want to taste her blood, so you bite her lip, and she is iron and decaying telomeres, but also the grit of matyrdom, the Kingdom of Christ, but you are Christ, so really you are tasting yourself.  What is love but to see yourself reflected in a different iteration back through something so precious to you, she is your own limb?  Joan is the Ark, the one to carry all life to the harbors of New Jerusalem after you have drunk your fill of Apocalyptic Fury, at least, that was your  plan.

Kissing her, you think, maybe I can give Earth, give this backwater planet, another million years, and we can have a million children in between, for you have always wanted children, and we can have a million of her lives and high school dances and songs of silence and buttercups in between, and a million first kisses?

Michael, you keep putting off the inevitable, but you are a creature of passion, so you set the Doomsday Clock back once more, and Joan is none the wiser.

Burning her at the stake broke your heart, and you have been trying to make it up to her ever since.

You have heard that girls like flowers.

You will bring her some roses, you will create for her a new bloom that combines the color of dreams with the smell of blue, you will name her and curse her and scream regret as she dies.

She always dies, you never die, and you envy her.

For every millionth beginning, the Kali Yuga demands a new Golden Age, the Year of the Crow and White Buffalo Woman come calling, Ragnarok passes and Liefrahser and Lief summon Necessity, and fuck, she is speaking in tongues, trying to teach you cadence, rhythm, and metaphor, but you wrote psalms, and you planted gardens, and this teenage Joan is a fiery spit of rebellious rage, as all teenagers are, and now she is sixteen, and she is writing.  Always writing.  Bad poetry, good poetry, stories about her enemy, stories about her lover, but often, she mixes up the two.

You read her stories and offer no critique, only praise.  The Devil is the Poet, the Angel is the Proofreader, and Heaven has no Edit button, for the Word is Law.

That’s a fancy way of saying she has a long way to go before she can lead the Crusade with her keyboard.  A keyboard warrior.  She only recently retired writing quizzes and fanfiction, and she adores vampires and fairies, and for however much you blatantly thrust Christendom in her face, she runs off to throw spears with Athena and parties underage at bars with Loki.  Joan was always a girl of the fields, a shepherdess, and to be pagan is to be a backwater farmer, a country, nature-bound creature of passion, and was not Krishna Gopal?  Krishna is much more your speed than Shiva, but Krishna has much more experience with girls than you, so you ask him over wine, my dear blue friend, what did you do with the women of the fields?

I had a thousand brides, my brother.  All the cowherds were mine.  You cannot own a woman, just like I Krishna, I Vishnu, do not own Lakshmi, cannot tame Radha, women are wild, she created you, did Joan not?  A fiery peasant girl who dreamed of an angel of flame.

You swill your wine, but the taste is bitter at the thought you cannot own this girl, cannot claim her, so you spit it out onto the ground and brier roses grow from the soil of Purgatory.

I will have her, every inch of her will know my Love, my Life, and in the end, I will save her from herself.  I have claimed her.  She is God’s, and I am God, so she is Mine.  Through her, I will save All.

Krishna laughs.  You angels, always dealing in heaven and hellfire and ultimatums.  Michael, can you ever take a night off?  Perhaps watch Aishywarya Rai’s movies and learn the heart of a woman.

I am genderless, Krishna.  I do not understand women.  Angels have no conception of man or woman, only want, and I want Joan.

Krishna shrugs and his mouth is a swan.  Then make love to her, woo her, write her poetry.

I am not a good poet, I created her to be the poetic one.  That is my new campaign idea – the written word as conquest.

Writers always turn on their muses, Michael.  Look at the Mahabharata.  You think I intended for that mess and beauty?  It happened organically, just as love does.

Have the rest of the wine, Krishna.  I am preoccupied.

Michael flies to the Outer Rim.  There are many Outer Rims.  He is a million armed, a trillion armed, a quintillion – never mind.  He writes infinite poems with his infinite arms, trying to capture his emotions for Joan.

They all turn up trite as shit.

He balls each flaming Hebrew poem into his infinite fists and tosses them into the Void.

I will have to think of something else.

Joan is eighteen, and it is moving day at college.  Michael crams his body into a sophomore philosophy major and helps her move boxes of makeup.  Why do girls have so much makeup?  Michael never knows.

I love you, Joan, he says as they sit on her old dorm bed.  She got a single room, no roommate, the better to concentrate on her vampire stories.  She is still in the genre stage.

I know, I love you too, Joan says, taking Michael’s flesh but not flesh hand, for a Walker’s body is a metaphor.

He traces her jaw.  He threads his fingers through her hair.  He speaks her name in a million alien languages.  He sings to her.  He is good at singing.  He sings Wide World by Cat Stevens.  Cat Stevens is the surefire way to win her over.  Her favorite movie is Harold and Maude, after all.

Come with me, he says, stepping out of his human body and into formlessness, into allegory, into nightmare and fallacy and a thousand broken promises and a body of tears.

Joan is frightened.  Why are you sad?

Because you are a witch.  Because you are my poem, but I cannot write poetry.  Because I love you.

He scoops her up into his mouth and swallows her whole.  Joan is etched in his heart, in his bloodstream, and he spits her back out wet blonde hair into the lap of the throne of God.  It is his throne.  God is Him, and Michael is Christ, and that is Heresy, but that is the Truth of Things.  For he is the closest to God, after all, humans can fathom.  And that tells a thousand tales.

I do not think that is how humans make love?  Michael ponders.

No, that was a shamanic death rebirth cannibalism thing, Joan laughs, dancing in one, only one, of his palms, his infinite hands, but it is his favorite hand because she is in it.  Be the albatross, dear Michael.  Blood from the heart.

He stabs himself with his flaming sword, and his blood flows gold and she swims through it.  She drinks the sea of him, and he enters her stomach, and then he swims through her blood, into her lungs, and she is choking on his feathers and gore.  They dance as bones alone, then become skyscrapers in December in Manhattan, and suddenly they are a pair of wolves.

They mix and match, red and blue, cat and dog, X and O, cross and nail.  They are still dancing when finally, she tires, and bares her sex, but really it is her heart, but really it is her seeds, and he seeks home in such a tiny abode, such a fraction of a molecule to one as mighty as him, and he eats her pomegranate with a tongue of silver, and he kisses and fucks and bleeds with her, but really they are on a pyre, alight, and the flames are ink, and Michael is trapped in her pen.

Sweet Joan, you will be the Daughter of Zion, the Watchtower, the Heavenly Kingdom, the Mother of All Nations and Matriarch of Israel.  All because you are my poem.

He breathes the words into her brain.

She laughs.  I am wild, and I am witch, and I am the quivering flame and rushing wind, and all I will be is your girl.

That leads to greater things.  We have destiny, obligations, duty.  Your Word is the Word of God, Joan.

Then you are my greatest work, Michael.  God bless the day I created you.

Father bless the day I created you, sweet Joan.

The pyre of Michael incinerates Joan’s Ark.  The Covenant’s birth water flood water breaks, and the world is drowned, but you would never know it, for all it causes is a single raindrop from that far off in the burgeoning hideaway of infinity, and a butterfly wing flaps, and thus girls are God, and God is just a girl.

 

Meet the Girl Messiah

This is quite lovely, she thinks, and I could burn, she thinks, but I would burn for Him.

The Messiah has no name you would recognize, just another small town girl, another Sarah or Rachel or Mary, one in millions, and she goes to an all-girl’s college, one of the Seven Sisters.

She has never known the touch of Man, but oh, has she known His touch, oh sweet lips like dates, and arms thick as oak, her Messenger, her Intercessor before the Lord.

Him, she draws in the margins of her Biology textbook.  Messenger, she thinks, before she comes home to His arms in the field outside her school where the sycamores grow thick and moss hangs from stones in a kind of springy carpet.  He makes her a crown of early spring daffodils to match His halo, and he says, ALL IS WELL WITH YOU, MY PROPHETESS.

A bush on fire speaks to her in the tongue of the Lord on her way to afternoon statistics.  She gives no pause and sends Him straight to voicemail.  She does not like these long chats with God, she is only nineteen, and she can barely handle alcohol, much less the Cosmos Given Voice.

She’s with her sorority sisters out on the town and the purest white dove Creation has ever seen lands on her palm.  The dove says: “Sweetest Miriam, you should be readying for the End Times, not killing time in the arms of cheap liquor and wandering eyes.”  Her sisters do not notice, do not hear the divinity right in front of her.  Miriam, or Rachel, or Sarah, or Elizabeth, or Mary – she laughs and says “Sweet God, I am but a girl, let me have my fun!” and succinctly flips God off.

“You are no child, you have duty,” the dove coos, shits on her, and the shit is gold coins, and she uses it to tip the hazel-eyed bartender.

She comes home drunk and stoned to her hippie school.  Michael, or Gabriel, or Raphael, or is he Uriel? he is waiting.  Her angel of umber skin and blue eyes and golden hair.

YOU ARE NOT READY, MY LOVE.  SOON THE DEVIL WILL COME TO SARAH LAWRENCE.  SOON BEELZEBUB WILL COME TO BARNARD.  SOON MEPHISTOPHELES MARCHES ON MOUNT HOLYOKE.

“Stop shouting, messenger, I’m high as a kite.”

He puts on human skin, her angel who knows no sin, but sins with her.  “Is this better, my love?  I was here to deliver a reprimand from dearest Father, but all I want is a beer and the taste of your mouth on mine.”

She gives him a Yuengling.  “Being the Messiah fucking sucks, Mess,” she says.  “I’d much rather be a stripper, at least they get paid for whoring themselves out, and to men.  I’m a whore for the Lord, a one way ticket to Heaven for the masses, and a slap on the face for those bound for Hell.  Hey, let’s dance to the Smiths.  I could really use some Morrissey.”

Her angel smiles as he sips his beer.  He cues up her old record player.  Bigmouth Strikes Again.  The Lord is her Bigmouth, so bossy, so annoying.  He’s her Father, and he has a shotgun, so no human boy is holy enough for his Daughter.  Only his most esteemed angelic Messenger cuts it.

They dance, and they sing along badly, and they are both just nineteen but immortal, as old as Precambrian fossils, no, older than the Big Bang, when all there was was gaping silence.

God sends the Ark of the Covenant abreast on cherub wings to their bedside after they are done fucking.  “Refresh yourself, Magdalene,” reads the note from their Father.  “Read the Book, study the Covenant, be a Lady of Letters, Leader of the Lord, Holy Holy Holy-”

She tears the note in two and burns it on her angel’s halo.

“Maybe we can wait another decade before I start with this Messiah stuff?” she asks Mess.

Mess smiles with burning teeth and a mouthful of violent violets.  “Father will not like that, which means I think it’s a wonderful plan.”

“Perfect, Mess!  Now let’s go to a coffeeshop and read some Proust.”

 

Trickster’s Bride, or The Journey Home

In one week, I got three full requests from the top agents in middle grade!  Happy Valentine’s to me!  Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Emily van Beek of Folio Jr., Daniel Lazar of Writer’s House all requested it within a week of each other (cue seeing stars!), and Brent Taylor of Triada and Thao Le of Sandra Djistrika all have the fulls.  The partials of my  middle grade are still with a few other agents, and my old novel, Firebird, has a 75 page partial with Joshua Bilmes of Jabberwocky!  This is the most success I’ve ever had querying a novel, but what inspired Chwal?

Chwal is a coming-of-age tale set in the South, New Orleans country specifically, about a girl raised by angels and spirits.  Like May, I was raised by angels, including Raphael, who is her guardian angel, and I knew Kalfou, or Mister Carrefour, the fiery dark horse Petro lwa from the age of two.  His blackness is still a real nightmare-wrangling threat, and he goes by many names: the Witchfather, the Man in Black, the Devil of the Crossroads, Kalfou, Satan – he changes names like the wind changes direction.

Unlike May, I ended up in a maryaj lwa with Kalfou because goddamn do tricksters act forceful when they want your attention.  They can drive you mad if you refuse them or scour you with bad luck, and dealing with the Evil Jazz Man that looks like a Demon Bob Marley with red (or just abyssal) eyes, midnight skin, dreads, a snake pommel cane, pinstripe suit, Cuban cigars at hand, and a sultry baritone serenading you in a dive bar in Hell on the piano is, well, otherworldly, to say the least.

Kalfou and I, we go way back to the age of two, to my first memory.  Samael, when he is not Middle Eastern, is often an African man obsessed with Peabo Bryson, rum, Satchmo, monocles, well-tailored suits and Cuban heels.  He told me early on that “Kalfou is one of my many names.  I have as many names as the wind,” an apt title as he is the samiel wind, and who but the Devil has as many guises as the phases of the moon?

His oldest form, this Man in Black, is this ancient African god of darkness, with eyes like the blankness of space with stars in them, wild dreadlocks, in lion skin loincloth, dealing in death and magic and the wilderness.  I call him Ubuntu as an inside joke.  He was at the core of my psychotic break, the savior that restored my sanity, where I cycled through all of Samael’s forms to the core of his most primal nature.  Ubuntu was the mantra of my psych ward where I was held without razors to shave or shoelaces to strangle, plastered on the walls as a motivational poster, used in therapy.

Ubuntu.  South African, the core of human origin, where millions of years ago a genetic bottleneck occurred and we were descended from all those mitochondrial Adams and Eves on the cape.  I imagine Kalfou was there, as he always is, in the darkness of death and magic of underground caverns, trickster par excellance, venom of the black mamba.

But I know his kindness, and his wrath, and his seduction.  Also, how he has kept me from the lips of death, which are his very own, always denying me his poisonous kiss.

For what is to love someone than to forever lose them?

Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù])[1][2] is a NguniBantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often also translated as “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.[3]

I was pumped full of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers but still my psychosis and mania raged.  I found myself in a dark cavern at the core of the earth, with a fire glowing, snake skin and lion skin around, with Ubuntu cross-legged in a Yogic pose, his eyes black stars, and he was Trickster.  He was Trickster, Trickster, Trickster, and he said I was the Trickster’s Bride.

The Trickster’s Wife is a Trickster herself, heyoka, backwards, Baba Yaga, he said.  My path was the Coyote Road.

All the Tricksters he cycled through.  Tezcatlipoca, the Devil, Loki, Maui, Raven, Coyote, Thunderbird, Hermes, Legba, Kalfou, some so old they did not have names, mad dancers that frothed at the mouth with thunder.  I would walk backwards through this world with Trickster at my side.

Death is the ultimate Trickster, and I am the Bride of Death.  To trick, you must be the Deceiver, the Adversary, the one who when riding a chwal people flee from, your poison pure leaves medicine to some, curses to others.

And so I tasted Death, and I kissed him despite his protestations and a major part of my soul died.

I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t think.

I was a puppet for madness, but the small frightened teen in me still flickered when the medicine was just right, and the spirits called

Enter Zora Neale Hurston’s works.

I was doomed to be a catatonic hallucinating vegetable in a madhouse.  I’m not going to dress my words plainly.  I was a madwoman, I was a bag lady, I was the kind of scary crazy you warn your kids about.

But I still loved to read, and so I taught myself again.  Sandman comics at first, but then, Zora’s short stories.

I promised myself I would not die if I could read my favorite author again.

I could barely hold a book.

But I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school, and Mules and Men, and so I picked up Seraph on the Sewanee and read all hundreds of pages of it by the time spring semester rolled around.

I wasn’t sane yet, I went back to school severely depressed, but Trickster kept whispering in my ear: Dance on.  Us Tricksters, we are storytellers.  Us Tricksters, we got business to do, people to make laugh, dances to perform.

You are a Trickster’s Wife, and so you are able to come back from Death.  For I am Death.  And you are Death.  And Death is the most alive god.  Death is Trickster, Trickster is Death, but we are the most brilliant stars.

So I sipped the wine of life, and I persevered.  I dreamed of my demon, my angel, my god, my crossroads Gebo Tawu madman, the X my marking on my tattooed angel hands.  Perhaps that meant I was his treasure.  He drank my  blood, and I drained him of magic, and years later, I wrote the story of a girl raised by angels, raised by gods, who must drive back the darkness of her own mind –

and find the light.

Cain the Vegetarian, Jesus Drives a Yugo

Beginning of the sequel to Fifty Shades of Satan: All Hail Samael! in which Shannon-reincarnation-of-Eve goes to the afterlife to find the map to God, Jesus – call him Yeshua – fixes up Yugos for joyrides, and Cain is an exhibitionist.  Purely for entertainment purposes only.  Yes this was written in college at 22.  I have hopefully matured since then!

The land of Nod wasn’t so hard to find with Jesus behind the wheel.  Well, technically, tweenage Yeshua was sitting shotgun, doing Sudoku.  With my petersword wedged into the ignition of Christ’s favorite 1985 Yugo, which were apparently plentiful in Limbo – a repository for forgotten things like horrible cars – we were cruising down the celestial highway.  Yeshua periodically reassured me the Yugo’s engine wouldn’t explode:

“See, I tinkered with it for a couple decades, blessed the wheels, then got myself a solid vehicle,” he explained.  “When it comes to cars, there’s nothing more poetic than a Yugo.”

“Will I be back in time for classes?”

Yeshua kicked his feet up on the dashboard.  “Time is inconsequential when you’re riding the galactic freeway.  Don’t worry, Shana.  I can call you that, right?  Means beautiful.  You look just like my favorite disciple.  Bloodline of Solomon and all.”

“Um, I guess?”  I took a left at a neutron star, then, after the highway narrowed to two lanes, sped past a nebula.  “This is what I imagine an acid trip would be like: me cruising the galaxy with Christ.”

“Yeshua, please.”  He scribbled something onto the newspaper puzzle he was doing.

“Right.  So who are we looking for?”

“The bearer of the Mark.  The Mark will point us in the direction of Dad.  The Mark’s owner is a bit of an asshole.  He got all the bad genes from his father.”

Mark?  Like Mark Zuckerberg?  Were we using a social network to stalk Yahweh?

Wait – land of Nod?  Something sounded annoyingly familiar.

I screeched the Yugo to a halt.  “We are not finding Cain.  He’s the first murderer!”

Yeshua looked at me with honey eyes.  “Huh.  A pity.  I told him you were coming.  He’s already started making salad.  Even cleaned his bathroom, which is surprising, considering how disorganized he is.”  Yeshua rummaged through the globe box and pulled out sunglasses to fend off the glare of a supernova.

“Cain’s like the Biblical definition of asshole.”

“Nah, he’s only as bad as his father.  They both have a roguish charm.  Oh, park here!”

Despite the exploding star, I pulled over to the side of the road, by a run-down joint that boasted “Milky Way’s Best Burgers.”  I pulled my petersword out of the ignition and looped it around my neck, glad to have a sacred weapon in my possession when confronting the world’s worst brother.

The celestial highway was what I imagined the love child of the Great Plains and Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy would look like.  Rolling hills of grass and wildflowers on the ground, astronomic monstrosities of black holes and dying stars above.  Everything was washed in psychedelic colors from galactic combustion.

Yeshua led me to a recently mowed path behind the burger joint.  Sunflowers tall as saplings bordered the freshly cut grass. “Cain dwells in the wilderness.  When you’re cursed to eternal exile, you kinda have to like liminal backwaters.”

“At least he can get his cheeseburger fix?”

“Cain hates meat.”

“Sure he does.”

I glanced at the resturant: the burger place was hosting what looked like the Wild Hunt motorcycle gang, complete with helmeted valkyries.  I was pretty sure I saw one-eyed Odin sweet-talking a waitress.  With its greasy windows and broken neon sign, it was a dive, but if the Norse pantheon, who were licked out of ice by a cow, dined there, it probably had good beef.

The breeze carried the scent of lavender and my own summer sweat.  The Border, as Yeshua called the supernatural highway, sure was pretty, in a kind of forgotten way.  Maybe Cain’s taste in a podunk nowhere wasn’t so bad.  All it needed was a trucker strip joint, maybe a casino, and it would have a definite vibe going on.

The farther we got from the highway, trees started creeping up from the plains, until after wandering for a while, we were in a picturesque forest, hung with vines.  The sunflowers gave way to shrubs, and everything looked lovingly tended, as if someone had clipped the pungent brier roses and trained the wisteria to artfully drape from the willows by the stream.  Round a bend, a wind chime made of bird skulls and river-smoothed glass clinked in the breeze.  I felt like I was meeting the village witch.

I turned a corner to find a certain ghostly menace bathing in a bend of the stream, where it eddied around jutting rocks.  Black hair spooled down his back, veiling his face from my view.

Man, he had a nice butt, despite it being paper-white.  His perfect, sorry ass was probably on a bender again.

“Samael?” I called.  “What are you doing here?”

Samael turned.

Only it wasn’t Samael: he had grass green eyes, with a constellation of freckles over his face, just like me.

Not-Samael covered his well-endowed nether regions and, to my surprise, blushed.  “Mother?  Um, you weren’t supposed to be here yet.”

“Did you call me mom?”  I stuttered.  “You’re older than me, freak!”

I looked to Yeshua for help with the confused nudist.

The Son of God had stripped down to his boxers and, with a definitive plop, cannonballed into the stream.  He surfaced and treaded water, a serene smile on his face.  “Cain, Eve doesn’t remember.  Recall how reincarnation works.”

Crap.  I was Eve.  I felt like barfing.

Cain’s face softened.  He pulled a green towel from a rock and wrapped it around his waist.  “Right.  Well, I suppose this is awkward.  You look just like her.  You are her.  I thought that, if you saw me, you would remember.  I just wanted to see you again.  After what father did to you, to us, I never thought I’d see you again.”

I squelched my shoe in some mud.  “Um, Henry and I, er, your father and I aren’t really a thing.  Like at all.  He’s kinda a jerky Harry Styles lookalike.”

Cain’s lips, who had the same dramatic Cupid’s bow as mine – urgh – parted..  “I wasn’t talking about Adam.”

“Uh… okay then.  Look, sorry I look like your mom or whatever, but you’re a stranger, and whoever your mysterious father is, if he’s not Adam, I’ve never met him.”

Cain laughed.  All dark and earthy.  God, he sounded just like Sam.   Why?

The world’s worst brother squeezed water from his long, luxurious hair.  How the hell did he bathe and not get a rat’s nest of tangles?  “I’m sure you two are very close.”

Dread gripped my stomach.  Yeshua was busy blowing bubbles.

I sat down on a boulder, dizzy.  “Wait, no.  That’s not what the Bible says!  Sam doesn’t have a fatherly bone in his deadbeat ossified body.”

Cain deftly changed into a black and green cloak that hung from a clothesline.  “Apparently you haven’t been reading between the Biblical lines, or the Kabbalah, for that matter.  That John fellow even calls me ‘son of the wicked one’ in the New Testament.  I never did like the apostles.”

Yeshua was sunbathing on a rock.  “John liked to exaggerate.”

“But Sam hasn’t mentioned you once!”

Cain gave a wild laugh.  “He inherited his parenting habits from his Father.  Both like to sacrifice their sons and ignore their cries for mercy.”

Yeshua rolled onto his stomach and sighed.  “Dad’s not all bad.  Just consumed by his Work.  I served my purpose.”

Cain rolled up the sleeves of his robe.  “At least your Father cares for you, Yeshua.  Mine?  He’s an idiot.”

My skin prickled.

Draculina

Crooked teeth, or maybe they’re just my busted fangs honey, sinking into the meat of my back to make me your little Draculina.  I’m the demon in your mind, the devil at your ear, wolf mother at your door and poison cobra curled around your wrist.  I lick your pressure points, I devour you in one sitting, and as my poison sinks into you, you wonder.

Will her tortures ever end?  Will she keep flirting with my blade, courting my punches, crawling broken footed to my arms and crying me a river of joy?  Forget about wounding me.  She is always crumbling around me, like a stone fence bent by age, rocks scoured by wind, salt licked clean bare by deer.  She is the eidolon cleft from my ribs, but really, she is my own heart, weeping aorta the color of black lichen.  You know, the kind that grows on cliffs in the farthest reaches of Hell and feeds on blood, or is it wine, or is it blood?  Down here getting drunk off your wives is in fashion – a spritz of lung, a nibble of the ear, a bit off the waist, all to make you thinner, love.

I only eat you because I believe I can save you.

Whatever happened to Wonderland?
And where’d Alice go? Oh.
I took a night train with knife in hand,
And cut out to the next show
Back in her living hell.
I wish to dwell, I long to be,
In the blood and the guts
With the birds of prey and the stinging of bees and bullets maybe.
Leaving heaven behind for good this time, the angels can keep it.
I’ve got a demon in mind and she’s standing behind my dark secret.
Draculina.