Apocrypha (beginning with lines by Charles Simic) | by Samuel J Fox

Never since the beginning of the world has there been so little light. Even the politicians must squint in order to read their agendas. The October drizzle has been predicted to linger until the dead break out of their graves from sheer discomfort. The soaked children play Frisbee with untied shoes underneath the sharpening clicks of a sky clouded with bats. The poor feel more comfortable in what little time is left because, soon, the Earth will be one big cataract. Joshua, the prophet, sits atop a fire escape, ignoring God, clipping his fingernails. In the seedy alley below, a rat scurries off with a shred of thumbnail in its jaw.

Some evenings we saw solitary men and women floating above the dark treetops. We wondered when it would be our turn to lift into uncontrollable rise. The tension all over the world was as palpable as a pomegranate ripe with blood. This planet, we realized, did not want us to stay here. We decided to return home and consummate our love a final time. We would do it with the lights off, but the land was already a dark beast breathing under moonlight. When we woke, there was crying. We opened the window to look out into the street where another man in a navy tie was rising into a copper sky. I turned to my lover to say that I liked his blazer when I realized my lover was evaporating through the ceiling, leaving us to be an I.

Knowing each snowflake by its suffering and name, I began to collect them in the old well basin. They would freeze over to make a frost-fringed mirror. I began to search for my lost lover, hoping they might have fallen from whatever celestial string hooked her heavenward. No luck. Instead, I gouged a Ouija board’s lettering in San serif font in the icy mirror. I asked questions to the air about my lover. The planchette moved underneath my fingers as though skating. The answer was always yes. Were they alright? Were they healthy? Were they returning? Was the world ending? Am I so lonely that I would stare down into an icy mirror I carved an alphabet upon expecting answers like God were listening?

The stars know everything, so we try to read their minds; and, by we, I mean me and some man I met wandering the city, now an abandoned urban tundra, who calls himself Jack. I don’t trust Jack, just like I don’t trust the ravens conglomerating above us while we walk, shuffling and fluttering along the rooftops to follow us. Jack has abrasions where he said he fell from the sky. We stare at the shivering sharpness of the stars, a gallery of peepholes where we imagine the angels watch us. I don’t think Jack is who he says he is. I think he’s actually the devil. He proves my hypothesis for, whenever he sleeps, his hands burst into flame under his head in time with his breathing.

Inside an abandoned gas station, constructing a spaceship out of a coffin, is where we found the angel. Bright as a newly printed almanac and timid as a one winged canary, it asked us what we thought we were doing being alive like we were. I told it that it was missing the halo, to which it replied it lost it in a snowbank. Jack coughed smoke into his hands and said it was awfully dusty in here. The angel angrily rummaged around in his makeshift escape pod, looking for something as though scared of a whisper no one else had heard. It told us that it was leaving earth to redeploy elsewhere. There was no hope to be had here. Nuclear winter had caused it to develop dandruff under the folds of its wings. What about him? Jack asked. What about this last good man here on earth? The angel stared back at me before saying that nothing stays good in the dark for too long.

I am on a street corner where I shouldn’t be. Alone and coatless I have gone out to look, once again, at the moon. Her face is more disheveled and pockmarked than ever before. Her light growing dimmer by the months. Months without clean water, a piss without stench, and my lover who has not written/called/texted/tweeted/messaged or sent a single nude to tell me they are alright. Jack is lighting mice bones on fire by grinding his teeth and spitting out the sparks. The street signs have graffiti on them, most of them saying the end is nigh. In the darkness, I think I see shapes but I could be wrong. They look like people I once loved who are lost. Maybe it’s not them who is lost. Maybe it had always been me. I return into the alley with Jack to turn in for the night. We have made a fort with old wood and cardboard to keep out the wind. Sometimes, he will turn his back to me and I will nudge closer to him, who keeps out the cold with his radiator skin. I almost want to hold him, but I don’t. Fear and loneliness can make us do terrible things, but, then again, so can love if it is ill kept and untimed.

Our fates in the silence of a mouth of the one who has no image are sealed between pressed lips. We have walked, the devil and me, across the freezing land, from city to city leaving footprints and charred boot-prints. My lover is not in sight. No one we come across wants to talk, but only want to survive a while longer. I don’t know why. There is no beauty anymore because we, and by we I guess myself as well, have ruined it. We come to a fork in the road. One goes up a hill and the other down. Jack embraces me goodbye. Says good luck in your search for God. As he turns to tread down the rocky path I yell a question. I ask him what he was doing here wandering this whole time. He turns and laughs, his tongue a split question itself. The same thing you have: looking for heaven while trapped in a night made luminous by your company.




Samuel J Fox is a bisexual poet living in North Carolina. He has been appearing in places such as Maudlin House, Five 2 One, and F.A.L.D.; he is forthcoming in Cold Creek Review, Grimoire Magazine, Moonchild Magazine, and in the window of the haunted house down the street. Find him there, on Twitter (@samueljfox) or www.samueljfox.com