III | Utopia


the girl I kissed under the rowan tree
is named ‘Rowan’.


this golden city
is the world after the apocalypse?

For some reason,
Jesus is king here?

(As in the crucified Jesus that Christians believe in.)


Is this some kind of joke?

I want to make a religious joke
but the winged donkey is staring at me.

The words die in my throat.


I’ve entered some sort of nightmare.

The nightmare of all agnostics.


‘Let me get this straight.

          ‘This place we are in now is what you Christians call heaven.’


Rowan nods.


‘Where’s the singing angels?
          ‘And the saints playing harps?
          ‘And people praising God all day?’

The donkey sighs.



‘I don’t get it,’ I say.

Rowan pats the donkey.
‘It’s okay. We’re
          bringing him back now.’

I really don’t get it.




Rowan leads me deeper into the city.

Me: Where are we going?
She: To the rowan tree.
Me: Isn’t it up the mountain?

The tip of her ears

peeking out of her hair

turn red.


She’s angry?

But her voice is calm.
‘There’s another one nearby.’




Knowing this strange golden city
is supposed to be

the Christian idea of heaven,

I look out for things to criticise.


A Christian friend once told me

that in heaven there’ll be

no pain,
no suffering,
no evil,
no sin.

‘Life will be so boring,’ I replied.

He didn’t know what to say.




People here don’t look bored.

Maybe they’re not allowed to


Some people
greet us

as we pass by.

Someone stops to talk to Rowan.




I didn’t realise it before, but

for some reason
people can walk
through the walls of buildings.

A man(?)
—it’s hard to tell—
is so engaged in his conversation
with a woman(?)
that he walks right through the corner of the building
and disappears from sight.


‘There’s no such thing as gender here,’
the donkey says belatedly.

‘They can walk through walls?’
I ask in disbelief.


Eeyore stares at me.


‘Don’t Christians believe in
          specific gender roles?’

The donkey looks annoyed.

‘That’s back then. Gender is not necessary here.’





Two woman(?) embrace
in the middle of the street
and part ways.


This is definitely a dream.




‘When there was space and time,
          ‘there is separation.

‘Gender, age, race, sex.

‘there’s no need for that
          in the new creation.’


‘Uh, I’m pretty sure I’m a guy right now.’


Rowan says from behind us,
‘Right now, just now, yesterday, before…

‘doesn’t exist here either.

          ‘Even “back then” is not really the right word.’


The donkey stares at Rowan.

‘You have to use words he will understand.’

‘What does it matter?,
Rowan retorts.
‘He doesn’t believe any of it.’


‘None of you are making any sense.’

I’m getting tired of this conversation.

‘I want to go back and play soccer.’




Rowan leads us into a garden
with two women(?) standing on either side of the entrance

holding flaming swords,
the tips embedded in the golden ground.


The laughter of children fills the air,
but there’s only trees in the garden.

Leaves flutter in the wind
          —they’re not moving randomly.
They fly like sentient beings,

a clear destination in mind.

Ordinary-looking leaves.


We stop under a large rock.
There’s a rowan tree
growing out of it.

The donkey turns to Rowan.

‘Do not forget that you are a witness.’

Rowan’s expressionless mask
for a moment,
and I see (quickly, for a moment, it’s gone now)

a beautiful vulnerable


‘I know,’ she mutters.

Voice almost drowned out by the talking trees.
‘but i’m afraid…’

The girl and the donkey look at each other
like they want to talk longer.

I don’t.

‘Let’s go back to where stuff makes sense,’ I say.

The winged donkey turns to me.

‘See you again.’

Never, I’m about to say.
Rowan puts her arms around the donkey’s neck.

Then, she takes my hand

and pulls me closer to the tree.

I stumble forward.

I resist her.

Just to prove
that she can’t be that strong.


Her hand is warm and soft
but her grip makes the hair on the back of my neck stand

and a chill runs down my spine.


I’m falling


without knowing it.




I’ve held
my girlfriend’s hand before

(just to get that straight)

but rowan’s hand
is the first

that I don’t want to let go.




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