The Beast I Worship
I am the beast I worship.
—Death Grips, “Beware”
The beast I worship has two broken upper teeth.
He likes to come on hissing, his whole demeanor muscle-thick and pissed.
The beast I worship speaks a vulgar French.
He claims Céline’s ellipses are just three assholes squinched.
He blanches at the sound of that in English.
It’s but one of many observations he regrets.
He’d chew salt in a show of penance
but believes contrition only makes things worse.
The beast I worship says better
to debase the ground of your offense.
Better to dissolve or burn.
Better to come back a wholly different form.
The beast I worship says imagine your own radiance.
Your string of endings unfurling urgent, brief, and red.
At my side the Demon writhes forever.
—Charles Baudelaire, “Destruction” (trans. C. F. MacIntyre)
If the heart is a fat red apple then it has two strains of fate. The latter the greater
demon for how it lets time snake in, each tooth suffused with hexameter and rot.
Tonight, in the black-framed portrait mirror outside my daughter’s room, time passes,
subtle as the exhalations hazing one’s brass jacket buttons while out on a walk
through a city deep inside a night of snow, a walk that proceeds past garbage,
past cars and pale trees; a walk that would proceed past reason and the jetty’s farthest shore
and into the lightless swath of the heart of the one unruly-copper carp still idling in those waters,
a muscle that in that turgid dark keeps time by emptying and filling itself, unencumbered
by Baudelaire’s hungry froth of monkeys or what the cold can do to its child’s eyes.
If only it could get there. If only every notion weren’t in service of some end.
If my heart is an apple I hope my daughter devours it. Tonight, my body
in the black-framed portrait mirror outside my daughter’s room looks like a photograph
she might find some day long after. One she could look at and say:
oh, yes, there, already you can see it. Like a grand piano falling in the rain.
There is a dog near here that sounds like it is howling tempranillo to the morning,
a declaration of its own continental variety of need. Some things deliver us.
Some convey a new basis by which to grieve. To see my daughter draw it,
under three purple, insect-legged stars, we have at least one way to proceed
that involves dozens of orange flowers and doing a thing she calls gathering the swan.
I wish I knew what that means so I didn’t keep picturing the point when a body stops
haunting the flock of paper napkins it let wing onto the wind and starts considering
whether its dignity should exceed that of the nearby trees. Everything grows
less certain. Good fortunes age. The insect repellent goes so faint you don’t believe
it’s there until your hand is in your teeth. It is comforting to identify things
because there is comfort in certainty. Even when it’s lethal. On doctor’s orders,
each night I ferry myself to sleep breathing any declarative that comes to mind.
It is humid here. I am no hibiscus. My ancestors are all mounds. I am grateful.
This is not a house where things are brought to drown.
Charlie Clark is a 2019 NEA fellow in poetry. His first book, The Newest Employee of the Museum of Ruin, is due out in fall 2020 from Four Way Books. His poems have appeared in New England Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, West Branch, and other journals.