Begging a snake

I will just come out and say that my rage on behalf of your pain,
when spent, mocks the hell out of me.

I thought that if I had the grit to carry on through the night,
burning with the words of Genesis,
wrestling with any angel,
gripping the leg of God,
you would wake up laughing,
the way you did in your child’s body.

It is tempting to think in the midst of it I am gaining,
that my railing is reaching the bench,
a decision in your favour, imminent.

Yet with every blow I go back like the parabolic widow,
begging a loaf for you,
or even a snake, for a snake is something.

But when the ash is cold, the blood dry on my burr coat, 
and my treaties come back to me torn,
I remain—alone with a gift of stone,
and curses, that coil at the ends of my fingers.

Should I forgo the pardonable backspace?
For what is pardon or repute to your knife-edge nights?

And if I were called up to those cliffs of accounting,
made to stand at the edge of that great fixed gulf,
should I fear the lake and taste of sulphur?
How could I when I come carrying only
your silent banner of pain.


  1. The narrator in the poem wrestles and writhes with something dark, an unnamed torment, felt first by someone else, but shared. Someone is suffering greatly, but the pain of witnessing that by others is such a grave burden. Stephen, if these are your feelings as you struggle to help someone in your life, my prayers reach out to you both. The emotions you share are chilling; I feel the sudden need to go and hug my boys.

  2. Calls to mind another great quote “…the man … in the arena, face marred by dust and sweat and blood, strives valiantly; errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows …the great devotion … daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” (Roosevelt)

    I do not know your life but somehow you have just provided a journey of illumination through mine.

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