Before sunset, I light a fire.
Word after word I feed into the flames. Words like stay, and more, and please. The air is full of them: embers striving to be stars.
I feed your name into the fire as well, every syllable a promise. The trees thrust grasping fingers into the sky to draw down night’s blanket over us.
The ashes fall lightly on me. They stain my clothes, my hair, my skin. The ashes fall lightly, but they fall.
I was seventeen the first time I died. It was gentle, like the dying of a star. My heart stopped, you said, for fifteen minutes.
I died a thousand times between then and now. I died again at nineteen and twenty-two and thirty-seven and a hundred and three; I died in war and in bed, with valor and in obscurity, alone and in your arms. All I remember is the dark and the shape of my name, how it fluttered against the wind: a kite tugging on a string.
Next time, I think, next time I will bring a knife.
Maybe tomorrow I will be made of magic. I will strike sparks from the sky with my fingertips. I will snatch sheep from the hillside where they graze. Tomorrow I will catch your gaze: a glint of light and then gone.
But today I am a fat lizard, all sinew and scales, contemplating a stone in the sun. I spread my limbs and scrape away lichen until it looks like me, that stone.
I watch, barely twitching an eye, waiting for a cricket to bound within reach of my tongue. I watch, I wait, and I think of dragons.
“They call me Glory.” It is a use-name. This matters less to the thick-necked bureaucrat barring my way than to his masters.
Burdened by the weight of a name I was not born to and do not want, I swing my sword.
I balled up my grief between my hands, like snow, until the cold settled into my bones. I imagined I could hear your voice calling me into the house.
My fingers opened; I left my sorrow under the junipers, waiting for spring.