17 November 2006 | Vol. 6, No. 3
Despair Is the Only Unforgivable Sin
The name of the Slough was Despond...
–John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress
O holy terror of a night, this mad,
malicious night, a supine night, bright
as bile, but anyway, inauspicious.
Bedraggled night, delicious as doom.
A night over which no angel will swoon.
O moon, O eye of God, unblinking.
And, yes, I have been drinking. Through black,
vacant hours and all the blank minutes
between them: O night, fifth gin,
and the hot, hard, heavy of a dark,
creeping spleen. O pit-middle of shadow,
through which the limbic incubus shifts
and reels. O eels. In the sea of my bed,
they're electric. They wish me dead.
O my head. I am awake and cannot
take it. A spendthrift ache says it hurts
because it has to. The bastard. As if
anyone's last words were ever truly true.
O virtue—Ich habe dich vergessen.
What a mess. O midnight and her cheap,
wide eyes, her grim, conniving hassles.
O Hansel sorts of hunger as were pined-for
by the witch. O last-ditch longing
of these broke-down bones. O alone.
O how I walk, my back to my own back,
ill-cyclic and clinically succinct. Hoot owl,
I've been hoodwinked. A deep sleep comes,
both with and without dreaming.
Anymore would be too much. O fuck.
O ravage. O poison. O gift. O season
of makeshift betrayals. O am I adverbial:
bleakly, forebodingly, balefully me.
So easy, this anxiety. Now into my living death,
Lord, come. For you have haunted me
enough, with your Jesus and your cross, besides.
And Father, though Almighty,
polices as he pleases. O my wreck,
the rubbernecked and the naked
stare with a onlooker's gape, crawling
the lanes of my veins, by their vehicles
and their vices. And I would try it likewise,
were I able. O Devil. I wear
my blasphemies like jewelry. They glint
when the light hits them, sorely.
I abhor Thee, my oversight. O revelries:
scarified, throttled or slight.
O shackle. O scruple. O scalpel.
About the author:
Jill Alexander Essbaum's newest collection, Harlot, is available from No Tell Books.
For further reading:
See the complete list of work by Jill Alexander Essbaum at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 6, No. 3, where "Despair Is the Only Unforgivable Sin" ran on November 17, 2006. List other work with these same labels: poetry.