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Things Underground

The "you" in this poem is my sister, Marsha.


I.

“Quiet," you whisper, "a wolf.” You turn

and dip your head into deep darkness.

A greasy tang salts the air.


We’re underground

in a black-earth den--

too small to be a cavern and

too big to be a grave.

A rivulet hisses.

Fleshy roots wallpaper the cave.


The candle flames and you are a crone,

cheeks sunken, eyes too round, too alert.

You’re frightened. Tingling cloaks me.



“I smell it-- old and sick.”

The punch of decay hugs the burrow.

I imagine patches of missing fur, polka dots

of scaly red flesh.

“Poor thing,” we chorus. “Poor, poor thing.”

II.


“Here, Boy!"

You offer your forearm to the darkness, a leathery stick.


“No! It wouldn’t change anything,” I grab it,

yank it back, and it’s a club-- a shillelagh,

gnarled fairy wood, bewitched,

alive with blue and green sparks.


“I’m going to end it,” I say.

The wolf whines and drags itself into view. Poor thing,

its foreleg is rotten. Maybe it was caught in a trap or broken.

God knows.

The creature’s red eyes plead with me.

I dab the air above its head with the wand, and

it vanishes.


We’re alone with nothing, at all-- just a dark space.

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