I. Ne Who Bathed in Night When the sun buried itself, crept down past where eyes could follow and fell into its hibernation from which none could raise it You took my hand, no more afraid of the darkness than of dying, and taught me how to see by starlight. While others danced entreaties for the sun's return, burned prayers, forests, sons and daughters for just a memory of day You led me to a midnight pool, had your rough way with me, slid your tongue on mine so I could speak with owls. When you vanished and other voices told me to shake off the dark, join them by the fire I laughed with the howl of a coyote spat a river of ink at their feet and set sail on it. II. She Who Buried the Past I met you on the endless ocean the darkness made, the both of us running to—and from—everything, found in your arms a kindred ink. You had never seen the shore, the sun: to you each day destroyed the last, erased it like it never was You like my tattoos? The martin, the whale, the banshee, the crab You came off on me each time we met, a storm of touch and moans like thunder— we finished smudged, blurred, satisfied. One morning I slipped away before you woke, took your mark with me before you could wipe me clean You like my tattoos? Ink was never meant to be forever III. He Who Dreamed of Fire I did not expect to love you for who would want to? but when you found me on the sands, stargazing it looked like you were waiting for the sky to fall and you smiled and asked if you could sit beside me I was cold, and you were glowing I couldn't help but fall. You told me you dreamed the same thing every night of only darkness, but that you believed you told me we're all waiting for something it was just that the lights had gone out inside you and you couldn't see I was cold, and you were glowing for want of a flame. We did not make love for who would want to? or even kiss, but sometimes our hands you told me we're all waiting for something would touch and I would feel a part of you react to a part of me I was cold, and you were glowing IV. Those Who Returned You found us on the shore shore of the land shore of the sea and you brought pieces of me like gifts— I let you keep them and showed you what pieces I had taken to fill the gaps. You asked to stay. We said yes for who would not? And on the shore we danced like winds, hands on bodies, lips brushing— we came like ghosts dissolving, glowed so bright we would have missed the sun rising.
Charles Payseur is an avid reader, writer, and reviewer of all things speculative. His fiction and poetry have appeared at Strange Horizons, Lightspeed Magazine, The Book Smugglers, and many more. You can find him gushing about short fiction (and occasionally his cats) on Twitter as @ClowderofTwo.