Dickinson's Demon

Grief, that animal
baring its teeth at me
frightens nothing like it used to
its stripes and claws, its lifted lip
strike no fear, bring tears for company.
So many nights entwined with it
the taste of salt and sweat
the dirty hair, an unwashed cloying
odor that sticks
no matter how often
I roll it over in the bedclothes.
It is a matted old friend by now
bad breath, smothering paws and all.

But let it hear the lightest lying trill
the merest saccharine hint borne on an angel's fart
of that goddamn demon of Dickinson's--
"that sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all"
and witness the true nature of Grief:
its five-inch fangs and bloody spurs,
a face distorted beyond repair
eyes that spark with neither reason nor sanity
and deeper down, the spear that goads the beast:
Hope itself--that silly feathered thing that flutters
ever out of reach
taunting, refusing, abusing.

I think there was a story, once
where Grief and Hope lived in peace;
something about the beast's profound patience
and Hope learning to walk around on the earth
wings folded sagely, wisely one might say
making promises it could keep;
but in the end the thing with feathers
took one too many a fancy swoop.
I got myself a new downy pillow
and Grief and I are finding
it's much easier to sleep in these days.

KB © 3/11/13


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