Wow, your gods are so much cheaper here,
he says. We wonder at him, at the world
that can provide belief to the lost and
the losing and those who will have lost.
We know the rituals, the rules; we count
our breaths held up, we finger beads
that feel smooth as stones crushed over
and over by waves, we know to tell
our sins to everyone who might listen:
I loved him, I loved her, I left behind
my nightmares spread like ink across his
pillow, I’m sorry, I repent.
We have catalogued our hopes and found
them lacking, we lack the imagination to find
something better than this, and sometimes we
think of prayers to say before sleeping. They climb
into bed with us, like lovers returned for one last
night, and wrap their arms into us and around us
and keep us momentarily warm. In the morning,
we are found again to have faces in the mirror, to
have shadows which follow us around, however
unwilling they might be, and we speak in tongues
as often as we can. It’s easy to shape your tongue
into twists and waves
and curls, once you know how, once you have trained
the muscle. We said our prayers so many times,
they have reshaped our mouths to them. We can
only speak aloud the words of wanting. I’m sorry.
I repent. We leave our gods, sometimes, at the doorstep
and don’t let them come in for days. It gets cold and
we eventually feel sorry enough to forgive them. We
think to tell him everything but never do.
The costs are low, they take it from your skin, those
laugh lines and scars. You didn’t need them anyways,
there was nothing left you could lose.
Chloe N. Clark’s work appears in such places as Bombay Gin, Drunken Boat, Flash Fiction Online, Hobart, Midwestern Gothic, and more. She writes for Nerds of a Feather and Ploughshares. In addition she teaches college comp and tweets @PintsNCupcakes.