The Wicked

by James Brown

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

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