“This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –”
–Emily Dickinson
Our hearts are full in the clarity that follows birth. We are a commission of peaceful occupation, cross-legged and holding hands, encircling the lake’s perimeter. Tulip poplars, ash trees, oaks and trees-we-have-not-named stand behind us to form a second demarcation. These last we admire, giant fairy-tale forms with scarred and knobbed trunks that spiral infinitely to shield and protect us. We are one but awake as many. Given names, we are each a seed of possibility and death.
Father Elijah emerges from the lake in time to ensure us he has not drowned. We wish he would refuse the desire to speak. Words once expressed shape the course, creating and imposing the fury of life. “Ascend in a chariot of fire,” he says, wearing an idiot’s smile. As if unaware of the curling at the corners of his mouth.
So one of us leans forward, down. Pulls her hands with our own, bows us to fleshy earth, reaching towards the center to touch black dirt that feeds fat blades of grass soft beneath our feet, but pricking our forefingers and thumbs. Call her Mother Earth.
Particularity is another way of saying I love you.
A submerged rage of impossibility becomes visible in Boy Beloved’s trembling features. Something in the dance of shivering lips casts images of distended bellies and hungry eyes.
Now, we are always tempted to break the bonds that link us—these sometimes faint like the touch of a ladybug’s spindly legs. How can we desire the threat and opportunity of forgetfulness, to exist before we were born?
We owe each other large sums of money.
It is always the moment before or after the storm that settles the mind, when nature speaks confidently to our bodies what has been and what will be. The heavy scent of rain and humid air affirms the lie.
Child Overcome breaks from us, and we aren’t shocked to learn he walks on water.
We don’t want to speak but must, predicting our own ends. So one of us muses on the time he fell from monkey bars, thinking himself invincible until the bone split.
The circle is so broken now. Less a circle than a dotted line. Engendering confusion and spectatorship, to watch and be watched. We can’t trust ourselves. How much of our pasts and heavy bodies do we press upon each other?
Two faint wheels of light flicker, curving in the sky above pointed trees: orange-blue suns competing with the yellow-white that breaks the firmament open. We see the transparent charioteer and know the absence of color means death.
Father Elijah covers his eyes. We are gathered together above him wheeling in fire. He was never one of us. We are going, in particular, nowhere. And he despairs, “Why must you refuse to change?” Impossible to tell.
He aspires us to rise but we grow weighted with time. So console us by experiencing this pain through us. Understand fire was created to consume.
Illustration: Shreyaa Krritika Das

Evan Steuber

Evan Steuber hails from Kentucky where they spent their first twenty-some years working in restaurants and retail, meeting the love of their life, and getting educated. Evan's creative work has appeared in Packingtown Review, The Gravity of the Thing, and Noctua Review. They recently received their PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Evan is pretty excited about life and philosophizes about the undead in their spare time.