I have stared down the creature,
In its ivory fangs and chameleon scales,
For another day, so far as I can see,
I have lived to tell the tale
Under rolling breath, the stench of salt and blood,
That selfsame insatiable beast,
Sulfurous, seething, scheming foe,
Who began, before my birth, the feast.
Who wears my mother’s youthful skin:
Her ageless hair, and heart, and hide,
As an ill-fitting dinner coat
Within which she resides.
She stands at the edge of the entryway
To the roving, rotting den
Beckoning me draw near, draw clambering
Over whitewashed bones again
In familiar reticence, I approach
Holding my breath
Against the smell of trauma and tragedy, and
The excrement of death.
In tender, youthful laughter, taking a hand
She leads me to the inner sanctum
To tend to her own torn flesh,
Victim to victim, the wounds are the symptom
Of the foul creature who waits,
Snorting and hissing
While my mother embraces me,
Weeping and kissing
From the lonely lair she cannot leave.
She’s in love with the beast she hates,
But she cannot see beyond
The ability to feed and dominate,
Nor the clawed wingspan she takes for her own
So she begs to all, come and dine
She shows me trinkets from the beast
While nearby, it reclines
And I lift a finger towards its frame
More than my mother can bear:
To name a nameless thing.
To cast light on what cannot be there.
Yet offerings must be sacrificed.
Every fanged beast demands blood.
We were birthed in the congealed river,
Baby hair matted from the flood
Washing us downstream in time,
To settlements, wayfaring lands
That need not see where we come from:
What blood has stained our hands.
And now, returned, within the lair
I wonder that I could traverse
The barriers from here to there,
The allegiances she won’t reverse
Fearful risks and mortal terrors-
To sit so close I feel its heat,
As lips snarl above jagged pearls,
I offer scraps at horned feet
To appease- to belay a meal.
Shaken by the sense of Other-
Speaking around the third-
The beast is not my mother:
Not the girl formed in the womb,
Merely the one she serves.
And the beast is not the greater,
Merely the one who usurps.
Yet she moves, a walking sacrifice-
All lost! And tending to her needs
Only heightens the understanding
She may be eaten at the next feed.
Time is all the gulf she’s had,
And time, the fickle friend,
Rarely announces in advance
When it will come to end.
Were it not for fearful foe,
How eagerly, her wounds redressed,
With all forgiven, almost forgotten,
Cradled again, to call her blessed
But the worship she so greatly craves,
The addiction of the ancient foes
Who slurp the poison to the dregs
With murderous interpose
Drives her hands deep in the side
Of her personal beast and foe,
And drinking her own poison,
She refuses to let go.
But for short hours in between,
We sit on grassy banks
And laugh at all the years we’ve seen,
Together giving thanks.
We both must know the days appointed,
The waxen seal is sulfer-tinged
Facing down cold malice and hot evil,
Madness and pride and revenge,
I sieve the moments in the dark.
I look to make emends,
But if I can climb to visit evil,
Can evil thus descend?
Innocence giggles on my return,
In a realm of fragrances fair-
What manner of creature may, at will,
Move freely between village and lair?
Can looking into evil
Allow evil to return the gaze?
Am I marked by my birth-
Numbered in my days?
All night, along my pilgrimage home,
The breath of the beast clung to my clothes
Whispers dissolved around my ears
“Did you think you could belong to those?”
Whispers that my origin is my destination,
And all the beauty in between the horror
Will one day be devoured
By the ever advancing tomorrow-
The only reprieve is to end today
Before I become what devastates
Protect them all from the monster,
From the lugubrious fates-
But it seems to me,
Listening to these
Only feeds the beast I hate.