The beast in me
Has had to learn to live with pain
And how to shelter from the rain
And in the twinkling of an eye
Might have to be restrained
God help the beast in me

--Johnny Cash

the man in black knew about it
that restless raging sorrowful thing
that turns in circles at the core of some people
turning and turning, searching
for a place to lie down.

tonight mine will not let me rest
she wants to wander forgotten pathways
neurons and synapses long grown over.
she is up and growling and I know for certain
the beast isn't trained, isn't tame.

and it's just me and she in here
she wants what she wants and I can't give in:
drink, drugs, love all consumed
but she is never sated and I go hungry.
she prods me out of bed and I wander exhausted

but wild-eyed into the streets
dressed to kill, can't hold still
and there is music bumping and flowing
out of the clubs and the bars
lights of all colors pulsing off wet pavement

and here we are, suddenly, being fed
here we are, just what we needed
the beast and me
the beast in me--our brains cradled in stimuli
bathed in color bathed in sound.

on another night it might drive us mad but
look!--we are mad already and our
heartbeat only needed a matching one
fast and hard enough to shake our
already-shaken being.

we have found the answer somewhere in the middle
here where the lights turn red yellow green
there is noise: pounding music screeching of tires
and the Beast recedes, turning and turning
finally finds that place of rest.

she closes her eyes and I open mine
in time to see the sculpture--a work of art
a flower of a former car wrapped so subtly
around a streetlamp--have I not seen it before?
and I am a participant, wrists deftly caught behind.

and I think how lovely I must seem
reflected in a thousand flashing lights but nowhere
near as exquisite as that torn and fragile metal
and I wish the beast would awake to behold
the true wildness of the world
the savage artistry of the mind
god help us.

KB © 3/10/2013


  1. Best description of a car wreck I've heard, like ever.

    "We are mad already" -- and mixed? Is it the whiplash, or the internal incongruity--the internal non sense--that invites that particular (mixed) madness?

    1. Yes to all. A mixed state. It is the whiplash, it is the abandonment, it's what happens when a drug isn't working as it should, when a mind isn't working as it should. It is the darkness that comes when humor has been lost (dark counterpoint to the whimsy of the carnival), when perspective has been lost, when the grip on reality has become tenuous. It isn't the fault of the beast, or the fault of the human it resides in; it's a perfect storm of everything. Then something happens--an accident that isn't quite an accident--and for the lucky ones there is no violence involved and the beast goes back to sleep and the person has a chance at redemption. For the lucky ones that perfect storm never comes again.

  2. Oh, it's coming . . . I'm afraid it's the nature of the beast, if you'll license me your term. (5 cents per use sound fair?) We're not that lucky. Like that movie, Silver Linings, you have to have a plan. I'm intrigued by this line in "Mixed": "we have found the answer somewhere in the middle
    here where the lights turn red yellow green" -- how did that work? Was it the colors, like Alessandro in A Soldier of the Great War? Was it the catharsis of the crash? The whiplash of the disorder? The flaming-out and exhaustion of a lifetime of battle? I love the line. The middle . . . lights red yellow green . . . so normal, so everyday--why should those things provide an answer, a merciful deflation? But they do, and that is such and interesting thing to ponder. Nice poem.


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