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.
—  S.T. Gibson
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
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
Thank you for arriving to the smoking room of my life wearing mercy like a yoke. Thank you for taking my face in your hands, running your thumb along the sheen of my bared teeth, and calling me soft.
Thank you for the rosy scar bitten into my hip and the sunspot splashed across my mouth. Thank you for keeping every skin I ever shed.
Thank you for our room at the center of myself where dusk falls through the window in gold and ocher. Thank you for painting my lips the color of your annunciation.
Thank you for kissing the angry knot at the nape of my neck until my fists unfurled into magnolias. Thank you for knitting me from a love that makes living hard.
Thank you for your voice, soft at the edges and still in center, present in every story I ever searched for.
—  “Sometimes God is a Kindness” 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 sparse magic that I often still marvel at. Something soft and newly birthed found 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 attempts to get back to that creative Eden, where our will and our words are one, entirely unafraid, wholly earnest.
—  S.T. Gibson

My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like say having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. And they can’t be blamed, people are just like that, but that’s not how it works.

Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.

But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they we able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.

It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me, it is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what had been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.

—  S.T.Gibson
To you, monster:
I will love you back into the light whether you want it or not.
I know what you’ve done and I’ve seen what’s in your heart
and you cannot frighten me.
I don’t even mind if you get blood on my dress.
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 
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
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
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
Remember your father’s overtime,
every slashed Christmas bonus and recession scare.
Remember your mother planting flowers
in run-down neighborhoods, making food stamps stretch
as she told you: “money can’t buy class”.
Remember you are soil for the cultivating.
Remember their only way out is up, is you.
Learn to know a man’s means by the cut of his suit,
make him feel free with his money and last name.
Remember he is your safest way.
Invest in secondhand watches and cheap high heels.
Keep your nails painted, your chin up, your accent light.
Remember this is a a heist you’re smart enough to pull off.
Work three jobs, burn no bridge, always pay your debts.
Save and save and pray to God the market holds.
Remember, up is your only way out.
—  “To Girls with Ladders” by 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

I’ve got gang members rioting in my belly
and vampires sucking the marrow from my bones.
There are faeries gnawing at my nail beds,
messiahs bleeding out into my arteries,
and foster-care urchins playing baseball
up and down the dirt road of my spine.
A matriarch rules from the castle seat of my cranium
(at war with the revolutionaries hiding in my heels)
and there must be at least seven superheroes
around here somewhere, going nowhere.
My hair is knotted into plot twists
and I make myself up in the morning with metaphor and detail.
There is no part of me that isn’t cobbled together from words.
There is no inch of me that does not scream out to be written.
Crack me open and you will find I am hollow,
filled to the brim with bodies waiting to be scooped up,
fleshed out,
and breathed into.
—  “Portrait of the Writer as an Undergraduate” 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.
—  S.T.Gibson