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Courtesy of Others ~
me and Hel
Death sits in your kitchen chair
across the table wrapped in darkness.
You cannot see under Her
robes to the bones and the screaming and
it is just as well. Her finger flicks in derision.
I have not come for your body.
You relax, a mistake. I have
come for your soul.
Much worse. You tremble. Write,
She says, pointing to paper
and pencil. Write all the things
about which you are ambivalent.
The things you love and hate both. Those which
snap you by reflex into old patterns. Write.
You write, you
weep. Like a mother wondering
which of her delinquent sons
will go to jail forever. Lover, child,
career, friends, causes.
Pieces of flesh. You
set down the pencil. One,
She says. You may keep one
as a keepsake. All others must go.
It is the bones and the screaming
now, inside you. You consider
offering Her your body, instead.
Would you die for these ambivalences?
Which of your fingers will you cut off,
which of your children will you present
with a sacred case of survivor guilt?
You wish to Hel it was
Her consort sitting there; He might
urge this on you, scowl and
stand tapping His foot, for years, even,
but He would not grab you by the scruff and
pull you through the gate
ready or not here we come. He is the
Voice that Urges, She is the Force
That Compels. She has no patience.
You will not be permitted
the luxury of confusion and fretting.
One, She says. All others must
Go. And when they go, they will be
Gone. This is the Real Thing.
There is no Do Over, no Only Joking.
You are allowed three seconds
then you must drop the weight.
For the gate through which you must
pass is no great portal
it is as tight as the neck of Her womb and
there is no room for heavy luggage.
You must be ready to fly. For you see,
She says, and it is the last
explanation you will get,
all else must be taken on faith,
Someday you will stumble onto the rocky road
that is your true path
and the fall would have killed you
if you hadn't been traveling light.
This poem is
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