is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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.

            O knife.

About the author:

Jill Alexander Essbaum's newest collection, Harlot, is available from No Tell Books.



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