‘A Composite of Loss’

The following short piece of prose is a text-collage of historical, cultural and imaginative responses to accounts that I came across during my Delphyne research into women, religion, and transgressive sexuality. It was published in Portland Magazine’s January 2020 issue.

 A Composite of Loss


I kneel before the Way of Sorrows.

The men grip my arms and drag me into the red-dusk streets. My hot tears flow and drop onto the dust of the dry, stony road. There is no sound over my ragged breaths.

It starts to hurt.

I think of praying to the saint of lost love, and in my delirium I almost smile. In another life I would have believed that beautiful Raphael would indeed appear, such was my faith. According to the scriptures he would take my hand and heal my love, drive out my demons who exhaust and destroy me, purify me, and give me the strength to walk my path.

Instead, I must be dragged.

I am still weeping for that lost love. It was a love that consumed me, that possessed me although I never possessed it, a love that was real only in my dreams. Perhaps I should pray instead to the Mother of Sighs; my unstoppable stream of tears would fill her lacrimarium to the brim.

I begged you once to let me suffer or let me die. There seemed no other choice. I begged for an end that you didn’t understand. In the dying red-gold sunlight I see the Place of Locusts before me, the square where they will rend my flesh, burn my bones, let the crows peck out my eyes.

But that won’t hurt any more than loving you.

I can no longer picture your face; I only feel the emptiness of your absence in my heart. The same heart that once you pierced with a golden arrow, which caused every fibre of my being to be overcome with ecstasy.

They strip me of my rags. I am naked, dirty, I continue to silently weep, unable to make a sound. Only the ropes binding my wrists to the stake hold me upright, I cannot stand. They tell me I should be ashamed for my tears, embarrassed for mourning my sad, small life. I am ashamed. But not for their reasons.

I am ashamed for once loving you. I am ashamed for being fooled, for giving everything to one who was indifferent to me, for allowing you to take over my soul, and letting you leave me only a hollow shell, an earthly husk that these men will now delight in burning.

Even now the fire dries my tears faster than I can cry them.

The smoke that chokes me will be the shame I feel at ever loving you. The whip that rips my skin will be the pain of your silence. The fire that claims me will be the eternal punishment I will face for my weakness.

I am a small, detested creature, rejected by all in this land; demented, corrupting, that’s what they say. So I took too much pleasure in you, the wrong kind of pleasure. They tell me Splenditello was a demon, not an angel at all. That is why they torture me; is that why you hurt me too?

I would wish for the peace of death but none of my wishes have ever come true. I would wish for rage, but I am not Lucretia. I would wish for you but I know you are lost. I would wish anyway, because I am still a fool.

You have always been lost.

So have I.

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