Hell is empty and all the devils are here. All the devils are here, wandering around trying to figure what comes next.
Preorders for Revenant’s Hymn are live and ready through Kobo, Vivlio, Apple, BorrowBox and directly from me through Payhip! The book itself publishes on March 5th, just under two months from now. Look at me, being ahead of schedule and everything. Will wonders never cease.
Revenant’s Hymn is a collection of short stories and poetry, all positioned around a central narrative about four demons stranded in the 1980s with no mission, no purpose and no master. The full blurb/marketing copy can be read on Goodreads – here, I’m going to go into a little more depth about Revenant’s Hymn and its table of contents. (And if you really can’t wait and you’re a book blogger and/or willing to leave a review – the ARC request form is here!)
No Fun To Be Alone
It was Mammon’s house in truth, only because Asmodeus hated it. They stayed in it because there was nowhere else to go. They snuck into Mammon’s bed in the night and he would rake his claws over their back and sink himself into them and lick the sweat from their collarbones. But the electric lights hurt their eyes. The ones forty years ago had been less bright; there had been more candles, more oil, less of this.
The central narrative of the book, told in eight parts; gory, sexual, and essentially a Stephen King book told from the monster’s perspective, in a way. “No Fun to Be Alone” has a non-binary protagonist, for those of you who will immediately perk up at that, although they’re not exactly the heroic type. (Sort of the diametric opposite.) If you like Kiera in Ghosts in Quicksilver or cry over the villains in shonen anime a lot, you’ll enjoy this.
I can read your face but not your mind
and I might grasp your words from the air
A rather old poem of mine that I finally got working the way I wanted it to; I’ve always struggled with writing poetry about being deaf, but I have a few I really enjoy.
Follow the moonlight’s trail to the very end of the road, and beyond, until you reach the last bridge across the river. Cross the bridge, then burn it.
There are eight “Revenant” pieces in the collection, each of them exactly 100 words. I’m not sure whether to call them prose poems, drabbles, flash fiction or something else entirely, but twice now I’ve had people mention them as some of the more striking bits, so clearly they’re something. Like “No Fun To Be Alone”, they’re scattered throughout the collection, bit by bit creating… well, not a story, exactly. A triptych? Octych? (I don’t know why I ended up with eight.)
call the county coroner, keep now quiet
cremate their corpses like coals and kindling
One of my structured (sort of?) poems in here, “Concrete” is what happens when I try to see how much c/k alliteration or consonance I can fit into a single poem with an identifiable topic/narrative. Turns out, a lot. I think I wrote this nearly six years ago now! I even remember where I was sitting when I wrote it.
bury your LOVERS bury your FRIENDS
Negotiating the humanity of the mental constructs that most people have and never acknowledge, never mind the ones that do emerge as acknowledged and aware, is a difficult and intensely personal ordeal. Saturday, specifically, takes a very personal glee in being something Other. She has the freedom to be, after all. Humanity is for suckers who are stuck with it.
This short story is what happens when you listen to Billie Eilish’s bury a friend on repeat while dealing with kin (false) memories and PTSD flashbacks. In case you thought the title was a coincidence. It’s taken a long time to get fully comfortable with openly talking about plurality and dissociative identity, but plainly speaking, I wasn’t exactly going to get far pretending to be a ‘normie’ writer, so why not? Please know going in, however; I have content warnings in the book as well, but this story is very strongly about suicide, sexual assault, and extended sexual abuse.
Thistle, vervain, bitterroot, and all the other warning signs
Begonias in their vivid blooms, flash’d alarum in designs
This one started as me just playing around with the flower meanings I was researching (for Bell, Clock and Candle) and it turned into something a little more haunting than that. Although it’s one of the many examples in the collection of me very clearly growing up on Old Books, whoops. (Does anybody use alarum anymore? I don’t think so.)
Dead Boys Don’t Bite
Dead boys don’t bite, at least, not much
we’re cold and limp but fun to touch
smell sweat and formaldehyde
our wired jaws rigid as our spines
Ah, it’s here I should underline that this is a firmly 18+ collection, and this piece is a huge part as to why. I don’t know why I wrote a sestina form poem about necrophilia from the point of view of the victims, but I sure did! I love it a lot, although I can’t quite get over the dorkiness of my first “real” adult content being… a sestina.
Mirrors on the Ceiling
…water turns to blood in the last light of the end of the world
swallowing up the sun for all the creatures skulking in the silt.
“Mirrors on the Ceiling” was originally published in my collection Post-Traumatic Anatomy, but this republished version is actually different! Mostly it’s been formatted differently, but it adds a remarkable amount in my opinion; I also like having it against poems and stories that are as weird as it is. Like some of the other pieces in here, it is deeply about sexual assault/abuse; also keep your eyes open for many, many references, because I can’t help myself.
Mary Mary Ordinary (Where Did Your Monsters Go?)
You don’t talk about the monsters under the bed. Under the earth. Under the stone and the bones and the crying crying soil.
I suppose I can’t keep just describing my short stories as weird given that that’s All Of Them. This short story is one that I apparently wrote at some point, shoved into the depths of my hard drive and forgot about, but I know it was clearly inspired by queer censorship/pinkwashing and the witch hunts that occur with such startling regularity online. For this one, another warning for sexual assault (mentioned more than anything else), suicide and genocide, and eye trauma (somewhat graphic).
in the dark of the night before you leave
you touch me like you think that I might break
Probably the shortest poem I have in here; I actually know where this one came from, and it’s an interesting story, albeit one I have to redact some details for. When I was in fandom more full-time, big bangs were all the rage, and mini-bangs (5k or so) were really starting to catch on. For one in particular, I asked if I could tell a story through poetry — and the mods said yes! Unfortunately, I left the fandom shortly afterwards, and dropped out of all the events I was in. I still have a lot of unfinished stuff kicking around, and while most of the poetry from that isn’t usable without a lot of editing, this one is still something I’m quite happy with.
Bone Rune Testament
I carve into my bones the words he promised the texts I wrote the way forward out of time that tick-tocks backwards into time and text and history we forgot –
This one is definitely a prose poem, even if I’m still shaky on the exact definition of that. “Bone Rune Testament” was previously published by VampCatMag, and I’m still so thankful, because it’s what gave me the kick to recognize that, hey, maybe people Like surrealist nonsense. This also – in its own way – inspired me to work on Grotesque, which will hopefully be either getting subbed or prepared for publishing in the next year.
Here In The Chambers Of Your Soul
Or, perhaps, you have been slipping away from me from the beginning
happy to have company but never sure what to do with it;
never sure where it is I should sit or stand
here in the chambers of your soul.
This is one of the deeply personal ones that I won’t share too much about, but it’s worth saying that intimacy – physical and emotional – is a constant struggle for people with mental illness, especially with each other, and I was feeling that a lot when I wrote this one. There’s a lot out there about how we hurt each other, but in my opinion, not enough about how we just can’t get comfortable with each other sometimes — and how there’s usually nobody to blame.
in spirals winding inwards and
the way the clocks are counting in
rhythm that is best forgot
rhythm that is best forgot
…Not to out myself as a total nerd, but for all of the creepiness of this poem, I suspect I originally wrote it after watching the first season of Soul Eater.
Half-joking aside, I performed this one at an open mic once and somebody wanted to turn it into a song! I eventually said no, because I want to do more slam poetry (and maybe record it) but I was tickled pink by the idea.
…covering up the truth that’s writ
beneath the callus of my feet
that I could leave the lantern-room,
if I dared,
I could believe,
that t’were enough to be half-sick of shadows.
that there was something more to me.
I’ve already mentioned my penchant for references and that I do spoken-word poetry, and this is a wonderful example of both! I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to perform this one one day, with all its weird rhythms; it’s also the… third? I believe, third reference to Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott in the chapbook. I have my favourites. I have no idea what to give people a heads-up for in regards to the triggers for this one, other than very intense paranoia, I suppose? But if that’s a trigger for you, then you should probably be reading a different… um… writer. (To be perfectly honest.)
The Headless, Waiting
blood beading like something precious
until he startles, breathing heavy
clutching at his neck in fear.
I truly believe (hope, actually) that one day somebody will ask me ‘Is this a reference to The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe?’ so I can very enthusiastically say yes and maybe startle them a bit. Specifically, the last verse of The Bells. I grew up with a bunch of little illustrated books with samples of different poets in them; while I loved all of them, my favourite was the one of Poe. It had this picture next to the last verse of The Bells of a skeleton in rags ringing the iron bells, and it is one of the most persistent images I have. If you are, however, a normal person, and can’t see the connection, I simply hope you like the poem for all its macabre nature.
the home that feels like you could live in it
the house that feels like you could build it
the hands that feel like you could move them
hovering somewhere in the
soul of the thing you didn’t even think about
On one hand, poetry should speak for itself. On the other hand, I feel like most autistic folks (those who are into poetry, anyway) who read this will know; so I say for the benefit of those who aren’t that this is explicitly about masking as allistic/neurotypical. It’s also pretty relevant to trying to mask as a singlet or sane in general, and to dysphoria. Funny thing about assembling this chapbook – turns out a lot of those are very similar to each other.
The Hanged Man
“Surely you have better things
to do –” and then he grinned,
“than stand below and watch me rot
as the witching dark moves in.”
There’s nothing more irritating than a pastiche when you can’t quite place who you’re pastiching. This poem is in a very particular style (to the point where it was rejected a few times for being too long and I’d totally blanked on the length) and I just… cannot place who it is! Definitely late Romantic or someone a touch later, but that’s all I’ve got. “What’s with the obsession with death?” That’s a long story, the short version of which is “I hung out with it a lot”.
There are no blue crocuses.
There are no birds in the sea.
There are no angels in the sky.
There are no people like me.
This one has been previously published by Umbel & Panicle! This one was based on a dream as well; I have a habit of turning my more unsettling dreams into poetry or stories, then getting a kick out of people’s reactions. My brain is an odd and dangerous place, apparently. (Before someone starts in with ‘actually’, yes, I know there is technically a blue crocus! It’s not a ‘true’ crocus. Yes, I looked that up before writing the poem. I wonder if that’s on purpose or something.)
The Dripping Tap
There is a small little receiver on the wall in front of me; a bronze affair, elaborate enough, but simple in that there are no numbers or keypad, nothing to press or dial. I have found myself staring at it, hoping I will hear it ring. Finding myself is the most apt term, it seems.
The answer to a question literally nobody has ever asked, which is “what happens when a horror writer obsessed with Lady of Shalott and Yellow Wallpaper writes an entry for Literary Taxidermy based on the first and last line of a Dorothy Parker story he’s never read?”. I didn’t win the contest, which I’m not super surprised by – I’ve changed the first and last line since to be more suiting – but I wouldn’t have written this without the contest, which is why I’m giving them a shout out here. Heads up for this one; trigger warnings apply for domestic violence, implied suicide, claustrophobia and identity loss.
Will You Love Me When I’m Gone?
Will you love me when I’m gone?
When I am just a shadow on your pillowcase,
a scent lingering on the floor,
leftover shampoo in the shower,
forgotten shoes left at the door
This might be the one in strongest need of a suicide trigger warning; not because it’s a more graphic depiction (it isn’t) but simply because this is a very, very personal poem about… well.. how inevitable it can feel sometimes. It’s not, but when it comes to mental illness, it is a lifelong struggle, and it’s not acknowledged that way enough.
ALL OUR LOVE
When she died (cause marked unknown)
they flayed the flesh from her white bones
and peeled the contours of her face
with careful touch and subtle grace –
I’ve actually published this one on this blog before; usually I wouldn’t link it, but the context for me originally posting it is very relevant to this collection! Trigger warning for death and oppression in general, although the specifics depend on how you read it. (It was written about transphobia and transmisogyny, but a lot of people can relate in different ways.)
The two of them sit face to face and eye to eye in a room without windows or door, and the gun is heavy in Jenny Crimson’s hand. Guns are heavy most of the time; this one is lighter than most, 82 percent unloaded, but still made of metal and death and a thousand timelines converging into a single hollow point.
I have no idea where the characters of Blue Lagoon and Jenny Crimson originally came from, or how they eventually ended up in a story about two alters playing Russian Roulette to determine the fate of their host, but this was the first story I ever consciously wrote about plurality. I submitted it a lot of places, and it got pretty far, but there’s something almost amusing about the number of very kind rejections I got that amounted to “it just doesn’t fit with anything else!” I’ll bet it doesn’t. It’s not exactly a common premise. This was originally published in The Shining Wire; the formatting in this version is simpler (and more accessible, although I do have ‘make an epub of TSW on the to-do list’).
Friends With Death
…in the end, we all
become his subjects, citizens and serfs
of the underground, full fathom five
deep dead and buried – far below
the skittering and the sighing of the
favoured and alive —
The concept of this poem was floating around in my head for a long time before I wrote it, but essentially, being queer is an odd balance of wanting to get away from the tragic depictions of death and misery, and… facing up to how much of it our history (and present) holds. My fascination with death comes just as much from that as it does my own experiences. Trigger warnings for this one include suicide, homophobia, and some oblique-but-clear references to things like the AIDS epidemic.
Waste Disposal (Ticking Of A Damaged Heart)
There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean floor
where your concrete shoes fit perfectly…
Yes, yes, another Poe-inspired one (Tell-Tale Heart, this time) but I claim it as my right as a goth. I really, really wish I could remember when I’d written this one; just that I’ve had it around for ages trying to fix it. I actually – through a hysterically on-point issue of memory – have a different version of this in Shining Wire and had forgotten. Which… I’d be more annoyed, but it’s too ironic.
I’m nobody! who are you?
are you nobody too?
will you dance with me
with a borrowed set of feet
to music that there’s no reason to cry to
with memories that neither of us own
playing on an old film reel?
Dickinson, this time (my gay shut-in energy, instead of my gay goth energy) but she speaks to me for a reason. This is also the poem that made me decide to put the collection together, after years of talking about a proper horror collection; it’s striking how the experiences of identity loss and dissociation are so relatable and so important to so many people, but are still a little discouraged from ‘polite’ conversation. (Only the more obvious with the dropping of the Moon Knight trailer and only a psychiatrist being a consulted instead of anybody with direct experience.)
and there’s another art to knowing how lost you are
knowing that you’re a walking fucking disaster area,
knowing that everybody around you is tired,
knowing that your legacy will be equal parts
admiration and frustration,
and knowing that you could be so much more if
you just knew when to stop and
when to start.
‘The Transient’ may very well be one of my favourite poems I’ve ever written. While I’m not going to publicly disclose who exactly it’s about, it’s a very transparent love letter to both the Beats and the shooting stars of the ’60s music scenes; the rockstars who lived hard and fast and died in particularly brutal ways. As a historian and poet, there’s a particular experience had when reading about some of them, especially when you disregard some of their common narratives; the sense that you’ve met them, in the friends you miss but had to walk away from before they dragged you down with them, or yourself in the mirror on your worst days, or the friend you’re worried about all the time but that you know you can keep together another day, another week, another month, another year. It’s all the more brutal when you acknowledge the unspoken truth that there aren’t ‘more’ queer people now. It’s just not as hidden.
One day, I will record myself performing this one. I am very much looking forward to it.