there’s a candle on the mantelpiece i don’t remember putting there. it burns, a tiny flame reflected on my corneas, candles all around me to ward off the encroaching dark. the mantel, decorated with a garland of pine and ornaments, reflects all the tinier flames around me, though it is actually solid and dark. the quiet howl of the wind echoes outside. luckily, the cabin is sealed.
the lights went out an hour ago and i grow weary with waiting. we are trapped in this small space for the duration of their absence. i thought a cabin in the snow-covered mountains sounded romantic. it was until a few hours ago. you are asleep somewhere behind me, blankets tucked around you like a holiday burrito wrap from which you snore. but my focus is with the lonely little soldier on the mantelpiece, keeping vigil. who put up this little candle? was my back turned? perhaps you did, while i was setting up the protective circle of light in the living room.
i feel safe near it, but i do not dare turn around to face the dark. even when the wind grows louder. even when the cabin creaks. better to think of happier things as i look at it. visions of you hugging me tomorrow, of the ring back on my finger, not lost somewhere between cabin floorboards on this snowy evening. you waking up to wrap your arms around me and chase the cold away. nothing happens but that little candle fills me up with something other than the melancholy of winter. its sides melt gracefully as i watch. there’s something beautiful in losing apart of itself just to keep the light burning longer.
in the eleventh hour, the candle goes out. i think i understand how that feels.
there’s a neon light that filters through the slats in the blinds, making little spotlights in the dark. it’s like they’re looking for you. your fingers grip the edge of the bed. the dark circles under your eyes look like they’re melting, a pair of surrealist clocks made of nightmares. you take another shuddering breath, pretend there aren’t knives in your lungs or gravel in your throat. tomorrow you’ll get dressed, go to the nearest place with a ‘help wanted’ sign, and you will start again. and when that first paycheck comes, you will burn these paper spectres from your memory with the matchsticks in your ribcage.
she touches her lips and wonders at them, another hand resting over her belly. there are flowers blooming there she did not know existed until one day she took a knife and cut herself open just to see what she was made of. surprised she watched as dusky soft petals unfurled themselves to greet the sun they’d been so long denied.
they are still growing and on some days they choke her throat with something like sadness, her eyes watering as it washes over her. this pain is her redemption as she finally lets grow what should have been in the first place and she greets each new bloom with a soft kiss.
perhaps in time she will be a garden and in it she will find healing.
my chest is a cathedral with arches for ribs my heart at the altar pounding away at the keys to the organ, its pipes filling me with a song the aria rising to the top of the dome to kiss the angels painted there
my skin / blisters under the heat of your / anger, burning like ethanol, blue-hot. / nobody can see it. / and your hands / kerosene / leave scorch marks /on my body / pull ragged breaths / and pained screams from / the depths of my soul. / it sets my lungs on fire. /can’t you hear them? / or have the flames / drowned them out?