Inflammation of the Soul

By N. Brinkley

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A man sits across from me. He speaks of taming wild thirsts; my fierce, unholy hungers. Of bread and blood. And meat and seed.

He crusades to turn my eyes inward and soul outward. He wants to see the prospect of nature everted and poke at the diseased spots of its pink, fleshy core.

I listen to the living word carried on his musky breath – like the dusty old books on his shelves. It smells like nothing has lived or stirred there in a long time. He spits when he pontificates.

A framed certificate confirms an ordination for God, but I keep expecting a demonic, bifurcated tongue to emerge. Oh God, don’t think of tongues.

He leans forward and asks if I’ve known the smell of sulfur. Have I been to Old Faithful? Visited St. Helens?

“It is better to marry than burn.”

I burn anyway. I burn for her. Because of her. Me. Us.

I wonder what passion looks like to him. Crumpled roller-permed hair and pit stains on his undershirt, every third Thursday of months without an r?

Has he seen passion like ours, ethereal and framed by the sun? Maybe if I hid it, if I tucked away our glow and loved her under the covers, to shield from Heaven’s eye all the parts of us we shouldn’t be. We could cover our mouths, with only whispers on our tongues to say the sun was ever there. Hide away, and covet my own cause for believing.

Our cocoon probably looks like a bundle of kindling to this man. With calm and folded fingers, he touts joys, simple and domestic, from a world of dutiful roles and plentiful, ripened fruit.

I want to scream; I want to hit him; I want to cry and get on my knees and beg him to absolve me.

“Shameful, unnatural… the evils from inside that defile you.”

I white-knuckle my armrests until I hear them creak in distress. But the fleshy pads of my fingers won’t draw blood from the wood.

He doesn’t understand. I’ve loved her before. I know I have. On an un-Grecian shore, when we were as we should be. I’ll just sit here and listen until I can remember – our names, the time and the place and the years of our age – and I can explain.

He reads me a passage and calls it breath.

But it can’t be the one I know. Because I’ve felt an angel’s breath on my skin, in the bliss of a little death.

Paul says I have choices, his verses or my own.

——-We’ll build them like Us
——-to walk as We do,
——-Our flesh to wear
——-Our will to bear,
——-to eat when they’re hungry
——-and starved for the truth,
——-to burn hot on the pyres
——-of many delicate fires.

– N. Brinkley