How to Survive the Deluge of Names

How to Survive the Deluge of Names

Remember how names droned and crackled until those who wandered Main Street wandered with ears stuffed with blood and pus-soaked cotton, and they no longer stopped to talk or greet each other or shake hands, instead passing with eyes to the cobbled walks while low moans issued from their throats.
– Robert Kloss, The Alligators of Abraham

Make the city eat its dust.
– Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

The clothing of the dead will fit you. All those lost rags rattling around like the names they once bore.

Bring your bloodguilt, pack it with the sandwiches and thermoses of coffee, scatter it like salt over the gravestones as you pass.

Be wary: death doesn’t always wear a black hat. But he always, always keeps a beautiful smile over those portcullis teeth. You can spot him holding hands with the widows, handsome devil in a black frock coat, crepe wool for whiskers to hide the hungry bones inside.

Pry open the can of what’s past, gravy dribbled along on an earthen plates and into our fault lines. It will work just like a seashell. It will send you the sounds of your loved ones singing from the corners of the sky.

Some might choose to map out the names, to remember with geography, words curling softly over rolling hills, stretching sharply over mountain peaks or dissolving like black ink into blue ocean.

Understand: the people will be baked in the flame before the fires have burnt themselves clean. They will emerge hard as clay, unable to bend or breathe. They will remain that way, human gargoyles, until the last name has entered the last pair of ears.

Understand: we are made of sorrow. We are the black hole that the universe will fly into one day, when all the grieving is done. The streets of our cities are strewn with the wreckage of our blown-out hearts.

Understand: this young nation is grown grey overnight.

You may choose to make a meal out of all these useless names, make a thing to feed us all until it burrows past this limitless horizon, until it seeds and shed this sorrow, until it feathers this wild land and falls over the warring parts of love.

Better still, choose to dream in shadows. There will always be shadows, and they will cool and collect around our many losses. They will call us home and knit our hearts and they will finally, finally bear this broad black guilt away.

Amber Sparks’s short stories have appeared in New York Tyrant, Unsaid, Gargoyle, Barrelhouse,The Collagist and elsewhere. Her first full-length story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, was recently published by Curbside Splendor. You can find her at or follow her on Twitter @ambernoelle.