James Brown


The Wicked

It starts at the edge of your teeth
like a small stone caramelised within a black jellybean,
and then it is grinding inside you like a cancer.
How can you write words you can’t even splutter,
that you can barely even think,
your mind an unspeakable furnace,
your tongue forever tripping over the neighbour’s cat?
You can’t find a fucking pen
in the whole fucking house that works
and, when you do, anger leads you nowhere.
But you follow, oh how you follow,
suddenly hearing the voice of that appalling poet
who once told you how he sent his books to schools
with a note saying they had ten days to return them
before his invoice would arrive. ‘It’s often easier,’
he’d confided, ‘for busy librarians to write out a cheque
than to re-package the book and return it.’
You’d wanted to pull his miserable beard out
there and then. You count calmly to ten
then go about resetting the rat poison without
a moment’s consideration for the neighbour’s cat.
You feel a wonderful power ‘surging’ through you.
Clichés feed your strength because
you’ve got a one-way ticket to hell
and you don’t care. Fire rages, clouds scud.
On your bike you weave and spit
a throaty, viral gob over the windscreen
of an SUV that won’t give way.
There is no rest for the wicked in this world.
At night you bully the dishes
into some sort of submission
before reading the kids a super scary story
—though you are the one tormented by nightmares
of terrible things befalling them.
On the news, the pain and hatred between
the Palestinians and the Israelis are exemplary.
From a distance it’s plain how senseless it all is,
and how nobody can win, but you can feel the anger
and frustration seething inside you,
and you know you’d be out there,
telling yourself the old lie about
how it’s because you love your home
and family more than life itself
that you can feel your fist rising
against the armour
in another offensive headline,
your partner wailing at the news,
your children’s indescribable faces
howling into the cycle.




Author’s Note


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