Fairy tales are more than moral lessons and time capsules for cultural commentary; they are natural law. The child raised on folklore will quickly learn the rules of crossroads and lakes, mirrors and mushroom rings. They’ll never eat or drink of a strange harvest or insult an old woman or fritter away their name as though there’s no power in it. They’ll never underestimate the youngest son or touch anyone’s hairpin or rosebush or bed without asking, and their steps through the woods will be light and unpresumptuous. Little ones who seek out fairy tales are taught to be shrewd and courteous citizens of the seen world, just in case the unseen one ever bleeds over.
John stuffed his hands in his pockets and sauntered off the trailer steps to join his cousin in the clearing where the baptizer held court. Night was falling outside, soft and velvety and alive with the buzz of cicadas and cacophonous croaking of frogs. Yeshua’s face was tipped upwards, his eyes scraping the sky for some imperceptible anomaly, and John watched the starlight fall down on his friend for a few moments, marveling at the vast blackness of those old, old eyes. Even as children, John had been aware that the pair of them had a special talent for making others uncomfortable. John’s argumentative nature and the spiritual revelation that bubbled up at inopportune times had him labelled as an incurable eccentric by the time he was ten, a title he gleefully embraced. You didn’t get to be a prominent faith healer by caring about what nonbelievers thought of your methods, and to tell to truth, that little bit of mystery mingled with the taboo was what kept new faces rolling into his sermons. In the end he chalked his unpopularity up to an unavoidable symptom of his being “God touched”, as his mother Elizabeth called it, but Yeshua was a different animal. Holding his gaze was a feat, and John had seen grown men break down into tears or storm from a room simply because they had looked into those unnerving, ancient eyes too long. Yeshua’s voice was a soft, unassuming foil to John’s bravado and bombast, but it could command a room in seconds, and when the younger man got really worked up and the spirit started moving…well, terrible wonders had been beheld.
—  S.T.Gibson, excerpt from Millennial Gospel
Peter’s not coming, darling.
You can latch the window and take the white ribbons from your hair,
stop sleeping with socks on and packing going-away bags.
Whispering the names of the lost boys will not hasten them to you.
Clapping your hands is no enchantment.
There is magic, though, in lining your eyes,
and spells to be cast in sharpening your tongue.
Come to me, darling, and I’ll show you how queens carry themselves.
I will teach you how to wrangle womanhood and tame it into a lapdog,
to recognize pirates without their hooks and rapier them with words,
to say no to heartless boys who need mothering
and make peace with stern princesses and jealous faeries.
I will help hide away childhood in the gilded cage of your ribs,
where it may blossom and thrive in the wildest part of you.
Here you will never grow old, never die.
Here is your Neverland, laced through your heart like corset strings,
tied up tight into a ribbon no span of years can unravel.
—  “To Growing Girls Who Dream of Neverland” by S.T. Gibson

In the Deep South, God is a cotton king,
Trussed up in plantation whites and powdered over smooth
with a little bit of talcum from Momma’s compact.
He’s the Georgia dust that gets on everything, in everything,
Caking the soles of bare feet
sifting through cracks in church pews,
and catching in your lover’s eyelashes.

In the Deep South, the Devil is a beautiful boy
who swears and cheats at billiards on Sunday.
He is the one who reaches up your skirt,
pulls out the prayers your were saving for someday
and lights them on fire with his tongue.
He will sing hymns while feasting on your forfeit heart,
call you blessed while peeling away dignity like stockings,
then drag you out in front of the church to be stoned.

In the Deep South, the Holy Spirit is an old woman
with hands brown and gnarled as the nuts she boils
and a voice soft and dark as the Appalachian sky.
She is the swamp kingdom matriarch children are sent to
when sins need to be wished away like warts,
the presence of whom straightens the spines of wayward souls
and coaxes a “Yes Ma’am” from the devil’s own.

In the Deep South, Jesus is a mixed-race child
with drops of destiny mingled into his blood
and the names of the saints tattooed along his spine.
He has his mother’s bearing, one that wears suffering nobly,
and baleful eyes that speak of the sins of his forefathers.
The word of God flutters from his mouth like butterflies
with bodies baptized in tears and wings dipped in steel.

In the Deep South, angels drink too much.
They sashay and guffaw and forget to return calls.
They tell white lies and agonize over what to wear.
In the Deep South, angels look very much like you and it,
and they cling to each other with dustbowl desperation
and replenish their failing reserves of grace with ritual
in the hopes of remembering what they once were,
what wonders they once were capable of performing.

—  Hossana Americana by S.T. Gibson
I want to hijack world history with you.
I want to kill monarchs
and infiltrate theocracies
and assault state capitols
and set the captives free.
I want to be the prophet enacting your high-strategy will,
The favored, faithful first general of your imperial army.
The sage philosopher turning hearts towards you,
towards us.
Oh darling, let’s be kings, I’m a killer in a crown.
Let’s build monuments so great God takes notice of us,
lets hide from His sight in a tangle of silken bedsheets
and toast to our infamy with goblets beaten from stolen gold.
Let our names be feared and revered and let us taste eternity
unwary of the cost.
They say this is love but I know it’s self-immolation,
the ignition of electricity between us.
So let us adorn ourselves with smoke and flame
drip blood rubies and pile up devotees like toy soilders,
let us dance, darling, on the ash and sing
‘our kingdom come, our will be done,
in thee as it is in me.’
—  Kingdom Come by S.T. Gibson
He will not come as a rush of wings
or a torrential downpour.
He will not be vast or terrible
or cold and calm as a night without stars
ready to swallow you whole
and kiss you full of darkness.
He will be nothing you ever wrote poetry about.
You will have learned to lace yourself
into resolve by the time he meets you,
miles from violence.
You will come seeking a riot,
thirsty for a love like war,
but he will speak only the language of peace treaties,
and his touch will be a ceasefire,
creeping over your skin
like refugees across borders.
He will unravel all the cruelty from your tongue,
unpin the hemlock from your hair,
and you, dear girl, will let him.
He will start brewing kettles
and cleaning out closets in your heart,
and when he dusts the ash from your arsonist’s coat,
folds it up,
and stows it away on the highest shelf,
you will remember what sweetness
and light taste like,
and that will work wonders.
—  “Ceasefire” by S.T.Gibson
Here’s to the angels from alpha centauri,
the ones who appear with a rush of wings and sonic boom,
beating the burnt ozone and atomized rocket fuel from their robes.
Here’s to seraphs with voices like artificial interfaces,
who come wielding blades doused in kerosene
and bearing gifts of titanium and chrome.
Here’s to all the cosmonauts
flashing be not afraid on halogen readouts,
planting quantum physics behind your eyelids
and feeding you electric gospels through an I.V. drip.
Here’s to their joints,
whirring and clicking as they trail
scriptures and new sciences down your spine
with trembling gold-capped fingertips.
Here’s to their breath,
(the cold kiss of dry ice)
swirling through your hair
with the comet dustings and asteroid bits.
Here’s to the angels, many-winged and mighty,
and to you, polishing their lidless eyes
and gifting them hologram prayers
a kissing any part of them that rusts.
—  “The Angels from Alpha Centauri” by S.T.Gibson
They will tell you that you must shut your eyes against the dark,
that untouched skin and unlived years are their own reward,
that unicorns don’t come calling on girls who have tasted blood.
But I tell you, innocence is no virtue.
Virtue is a hard-won thing.
It is the bullets meant to kill you that you swallowed instead,
the ones that clink in your stomach when you toss and turn at night.
Goodness is an albatross, heavy around your neck and often shot down,
principles are old knife wounds, flaring up to demand attention,
and integrity is being martyred a thousand times over,
each time as dirty and raw and worthy as the last.
These things call for bleeding and breathing and taking up space.
These things are not found crushed between the pages of stories
not your own like the first blossoms of spring.
They will tell you that you must stay innocent, dear heart,
but innocence is not dining on enough of the world to become wise
and never needing to be clever or learning how to be shrewd.
Innocence is being pulled under by the weight of your skirts
and not knowing how to rage against the water rushing in.
Innocence is weeping over a unicorn’s bloody hide,
because you never suspected men only wanted it for its horn.
—  To Girls Who Wait on Unicorns by S.T. Gibson
I carry my jealousies like bottle caps in the pocket of my jeans,
Mike’s Hard, Miller High Life, her waistline, your distracted gaze,
how many rings it takes for you pick up the phone,
a single Smirnoff Ice.
They are all hard, sharp-edged, and easy to carry,
perfect for worrying like prayer beads under the table
when she beams at me at dinner and bares her dewy throat.
She rides horses and wears crosses and lotions her skin every night.
Her eyes shine soft as butter and mouth is pliable and pink
and her hair goes on for fucking eons.
I remind myself women have ransomed France with hair like mine,
but twist the top off a sparkling bottle of low-self esteem all the same,
and drink until I can see your compliments
etched onto the bottom of the glass.
You are three weeks on the market and settling in on her bid.
I wonder if you see my shadow in her silhouette.
She orders water, oblivious.
I could probably kill her, if it came down to it.
This comforts me, and I order a superiority cocktail  with bitters,
lots and lots of bitters.
Glass after glass of prayer and self-love
are the only things for the hangover that’s coming
but vanity shots from other men taste better,
drama on tap is cheap and in season,
and sips of your eyes on my ass are easy to sneak.
Her curved teeth gleam like moonstones in the treacherous lighting
and for the first time in a long time,
I’m blind drunk.
—  Bottlecaps by S.T.Gibson
To you, monster:
I will love you back into the light whether you want it or not.
I will draw you to my breast when they come at you with arrows,
I don’t mind if you get blood on to my dress.
I know what you’ve done and I’ve seen what’s in your heart
and you cannot frighten me.
My heart is a reservoir, and you can claw
down through the black and the cold,
thrashing and writhing and roiling,
but you will never find the bottom.
—  from Manifesto of Those Who Love too Much by S.T.Gibson 
In the rushes and marsh grass of my heart
your face flashes like dragonfly wings,
and my breath breeds fog and heavy dew
in the stirs and sighs of morning.
The gossamer threads of old conversations
tangle in my fingers, sticky as spiderwebs,
and the sultry growl of far-off thunder
rumbles in the pit of my stomach.
Here, rain always threatens the horizon.
Here, it is always dusk.
Here, you are always caught in the act of leaving,
one foot out a dim and open door.
—  “Dwell” by S.T. Gibson
Beware of boys with opalite eyes,
whose teeth want for filing,
whose fingers spin cobwebs from half-truths,
whose edges don’t quite hold together in twilight.
They have a way of springing the locks on
all the homes you’ve made in your heart
and unprettying each and every one.
—  S.T.Gibson

It was Russia in 1934 and my beauty was all that was keeping me fed. You found me shivering in that artist’s studio, naked as the graces and posturing like a boy playing at soldiers. I do not think you expected to find a new bride among the wax fruit and fake marble, nor for him to be an unwomanly and half-starved silhouette for hire, but I have never once seen you show your surprise, solnyshko. You are the very splendor of Ancient Greece, you said, marveling at the way the pale light streaming in through the attic window hit my skin. I should call you Ganymede.

I was raised by the aesthetic degenerates of Leningrad, actors and artists who loved me for my long lashes and white shoulders and golden hair. In a lifetime populated with the dregs of society, you stood out so starkly, like black blood on new snow. And your women! As cold and fair as lost tsarinas, the one with her regal crown of jet hair and the other with eyes like loss. They tell me your name is Alexi, you said when you caught me looking. That you have no kin, no family name. Tell me, did you ever wish for sisters? How my stomach trembled when you touched me! You draped me in your black coat and Magdalena gave me her mink, Constanta her winter gloves. You paid the painter twice my fee and led me towards your sable horses stamping and steaming in the snow. I promise you bread and roe, pheasant and mackerel, vodka and pomegranates from here until eternity, you said, so soft the ice of your breath stirred my hair. Ballerinas and chairmen will dine at our table and you will know nothing but bounty. The girls complain that the undying life is too cold, but I say cold is winter snuffling at your door and no money for the grocer, I say I have never been warmer.

Thirdborn from The Dracula Suites by S.T.Gibson

You say you don’t like girls but honey I didn’t either,
until she sidled up beside me all cut grass and bright print,
until she drifted in my sightline all honey and fresh wheat,
until you waltzed in to my auditions all russet and crushed silk,
and now I don’t know a thing
but how nice you look low lit and grinning.
This scene is played out but it never stopped stinging,
you never stop glowing, the party never stops spinning,
you just keep tossing back PBR,
and suddenly I’m the one sick to my stomach.
—  Afterparty by S.T.Gibson
I was already writing stories as a girl, before I was intimate with the western canon and flush with literary theory. These rambling tales were of course not very good, they had no deliberate structure or notable artistry, but they possessed a certain sparse magic that I often still marvel at. Something soft and newly birthed breathed between the words, finding room to grow in those sprawling plotholes, and I nurtured it with dreamlike abandon, absolutely convinced of it’s brilliance. Even now as an academic I have never encountered any term to express the power of this soul-deep belief, but I think that we as authors are always trying to re-capture that old magic, whether we know it or not. Maybe all our writerly exertions are just ways to get back to that creative Eden, where our will and our words are one, entirely unafraid, wholly earnest.
—  S.T. Gibson