Braid in Three Persons
Lately I run backward as often as forward. I used to be so linear, so easily tracked. I do not mean for this to sound like a riddle. I have become a tool for solving puzzles. Bending and regressing like never before, I can unlock every door before it shuts, restore each chandelier after its crash, free men from the jaws of beasts, unharmed. Where once I felt sturdy as steel cable, now my ends fray and unravel like worn-out twine. Miracles creep over the land. I have seen cannonballs halt in midair and fly back into cannon mouths. I have seen a boy who runs atop clouds. I have seen the night sky replaced with orange fire. The world comes apart with me. Creatures travel west and die, turn east and return to life. Shadows escape the shackles of objects blocking the light and forge their own paths, colliding and collecting. I fear what abomination will emerge next if I do not regain control. I was once resolute and immovable, now I am enslaved. The sand in the hourglass follows a new wind. Wrenched back and forth endlessly, I can no longer see straight ahead.
Your ends justify your means, you believe, without fear of consequences. You have no companion, no conscience, no one to tell you what you do is wrong. What you do is wrong. Anyone who could see that, say so, is gone. Left quietly, sobbing or seething, while you worked night and day in your windowless laboratory. You think that to undo each mistake is the same as to make everything right, to bring order to the world. You have reached farther than any man and grabbed the reins of the chariot in the stratosphere. You make a road of the sky. You trampoline on skulls to find the next landing. You accept no error. By making yourself infallible, you brought chaos. The world invents a new flaw for every fault you erase. For every puzzle you piece together, another star falls from the firmament. Another flower becomes a feral animal. Another pit yawns open the earth. You try to play the hero by dismantling your own great and terrible work. You rise as easily as you descend, repelled by the same force that once fixed your feet to the earth. Blinded by ambition, you can no longer distinguish creation from destruction.
She spends her whole life kidnapped, never knowing freedom. In her tower with walls of glass, she does not need to be guarded. The thought of leaving on her own never enters her mind. She is like the circus elephant immobilized by a thin rope binding its trunk to a stake in the ground—a restraint strong enough to hold it as an infant, an animal that never learned its own strength as it grew. She knows only how to lie in bed, bake a cake, stare out the window at the grassy hills, run in a long dress, and scream for help. She also knows the humiliation of being thrown over the shoulder of a man or a monster. She does not know why she is the object of their desires, a prized possession. She changes hands often. Captors carry her from tower to tower, dungeon to dungeon, castle to lair to prison to cage. She used to sing melancholy melodies that would echo from chamber walls, but they brought her no solace. Men call her Princess, but she remembers no kingdom that she ever called home. “Princess,” she thinks, because she is a pet poodle to them. Time and time again, new men appear to stalk and espy her, abduct and reclaim her. Passed around like gossip, she can no longer tell her rescuers from her tormentors.