Mary Hamilton

photo by Matt Walker

Me and Theodore climbed to the top of the water tower because we were scared of the tremors beneath the dirt.

There is nothing wrong with lanterns under your skin. The way they bump and quiver when you run. There is nothing wrong with they way their lights follow each other, dark to light, making a flashing wave of lit up lantern shapes all up and down your arms and legs. There is nothing wrong with the way they itch when they rotate and push at your skin from the inside. Let them move. Let them agitate. They are the light that will guide you into the night. Into the battle that rages on the other side of this hour. When that trollop called night sees you coming, an army of you, bringing this lantern light into her house, she will squeal, she will burn, she will howl at the way a muted and shallow little light has invaded her home.

There is a certain faith in the body's ability to heal. In the way a broken bone, set correctly, will find its way back together. The way a scab forms over a cut. The way strained muscles ease into a painless routine. There is a certain faith that the body will return and return again. The body will defend against the demons that cut us down, that bury us. But where do we turn when the pain persists? When the mole gets bigger? When the breath gets tender? When the demons are your own body, attacking, treason from the inside? Are we supposed to just give up and go, voluntarily, into that perfume of rot called twilight only to be swallowed by the selfish maw of night?

Light those lanterns, light them all, each and every one. There is no shame in the pattern that reaches across your backs. Take pride in your own defenses. Take pride in the light we've made here together on this day.

On this day, we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, watching the blue of our youth pulling her own skin back, to make room for the sad, bleak, anonymity of night and all the violence and crud that she brings. Crawling through her hair and over her skin, eyes, in through her holes and out through her mouth. A putrid witch of a thing. When I say charge, charge into that sky. Into that gloating black night. Raise your weapons and make war.

I said take up your weapons and make your way into the belly of night. Slash apart her mud veil. Cut her through front to back. Make of her chest a hole. Make of her arms kindling to burn on my pyre. Tell her eyes to stop their weeping. Prepare your destiny. Prepare your mind, body, and soul. Charge into the night with rage and pity. And know that while some of you may fall and some of you may fly, if you are lucky, no one will be there to see you reeling, incomprehensibly, into darkness.

Mary Hamilton is a writer, teacher, and optician in Chicago where she is also the co-host and co-founder of the QUICKIES! reading series. Her chapbook We Know What We Are was recently published by Rose Metal Press. Her work has appeared in Knee-Jerk, Fiction at Work, Smokelong, Noo, and various other lovely places. She blogs about inspirational sports movies at

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