There are times I go down until I am surrounded by yellow music. There is nothing beneath me. My mother’s dead lips smile and say, “See, there is nothing lesser than we.” The earth is my camp breath, her worms and the heat of my bowels. Night sweat means nothing to those who do not sleep. It is a balm, an outside offering.
Please take me to the circus, that I might witness the misery of other animals, the empirical majesty and absolute dominion of man, where only the elephant is sadder than me. Lost in a sea of green money and fingertip fishes seeking greedy, sucky, moments of avarice, she has eleven open mouths and swallows the whole of me. Did you see the frail lantern alight in the window and the name it was wearing. Yes, its message of Phaedra and calling itself home.
Falling into a forest of a thousand guitars, whose root strings are tender, is the master of chord. He hangs himself from the nearest guitar, dies on the music of the wind. “Meet me in your dreams,” she cries, “the next best thing to being there.” Shadow shapes call out to my name. I am blind in the periphery and in all dreams I die. Like a wounded animal, I smell the rot of my flesh and damn the maggots for eating parts of me left better to putrefy and deliver me to the end land.
Sleep is the kingdom of the healthy, where the strong go to rest and the weak to escape. There is a madness between sleep where pariahs such as I, alleys roam. In a pasture of lowing, moon-swept, pastoral and fine, I am the hunter’s lust to slay with fang and claw, all that lives, to starve on a body of prey.
The pretty boys were singing downtown, making heat for long-legged girls, flinging epithets at the old men, beggars and high roller winos. Midnight don’t mean nothin’ to strangers. I got one foot in Jesus, the other in the ditch. Spirituality is like ringworm. It makes you itch, digs down deeper than your flesh.
Why don’t you take me out walkin’ until my feet are under water and my eyes are full of sand. I’ll look down and wonder, all gritty, where the hell did they go? The man on the radio says ha-ha, talks to girls about their titties and why don’t they join a swinger’s club, do it in front of their old men. He breaks for a commercial about shaking babies to death.
Life makes about as much sense as two nickels rubbed together, don’t make a dime. You put it all up front and, when it falls down, you walk away and wonder, was it something you said or maybe you didn’t. I knew a man named Jimmi. He got real pissed when they took away one of his m’s, set fire to his instrument and banged his head on the floor. Ah hell, it’s all in the letters.
I loathe rooms with four walls, double doors and window mirrors. They see everything you do, look back, contemptuous, to remind you of everything you don’t. Yesterday there was something in my soup; I believe it loved me. The prayer I said over it was beautiful. You are woman; you are my hope, my dream and then I swallowed it whole.
There may be enough pills in this bottle to still the phantoms behind my eyes, that I might cop a few hours of death, leave this drifting shadow place for the delight of ebon fantasies. Be kind to me, you damned night. Allow me acceptance, her invitation and, with the blessing of Phaedra whose death by her own hand is the sleep death, a revenge of sons.
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© artwork & words conceived by & property of Tom (WordWulf) Sterner © Blessings of Phaedra was published 2008 in The Hudson View
& nominated for The Pushcart Prize