A Season Past Hell

Valerie Lute

after Arthur Rimbaud

Some call him the boy poet. Some call him God of Death. I loved him like obscenities, praised his every breath. Together we damned our souls and sucked on tangerines. We kept our piss in jam jars to smash on passing cars. He threw up crime and hospitals. He was pleasurably mad.

He was neither flesh nor air, neither honey nor the wasp. He willed himself through hookah pipes and kissed each lung he licked. He chewed straight through my heart one night, one slithering midnight dank. He left me with a gaping wound, all round and charred and black. 

I stood frozen for a season’s time, explored each corner of my mind, lived as simple as a monk yet dreamed as Satan’s spawn. Then I learned explosions aren’t the only way to die. At last, I can no longer stand living as half-ghost, and now I seek the boy again wherever he might roam.

I follow him through moons and noons and through some red dawns new, watch him haunt the icy streams, to draw men from Elysian dreams, string sinners like puppets from their beds, turn hearts to puddles and drink them to the dregs. 

Then tonight, this autumn’s eve, a zephyr rocks us both. He has not seen me stalking him like some starving beast, until the hole within my heart sings like a sobbing wolf. He peers against the blinding mists and turns to will-o’-wisp.

“Give me all your secrets,” I shout, followed with a curse, for only he knows how to live without care for law or rights. Just before he disappears for Africa or Spain, he leaves me with a poem, though he’d never use that name:

“I wanted to be everyone, both God and lowly man, saint and disembodied sin, a gun, a bullet wound. I’ve grown so large I eat the world, so small I perish in the wind. I seduced all that contradicts, and what I’ve found is this: Each heartbeat is a work of art, for each heartbeat I’m reborn. If I never wrote a single word, my masterpiece yet would live.” 

I stand upon the mountain cliffs, alone and shivering cold, and realize though I lack his nerve, I can still say the same.



Valerie Lute is a writer whose short stories and poetry have appeared in Everyday Fiction, The Good Men Project, Prime Number Magazine, and the Rusty Nail, among others. She lives in Massachusetts where she reads like a fiend, listens to vintage punk rock, and occasionally goes outside.