Thumb-heel at the back of my neck, nails in my stubbly nape,
You wrench my head back and my mouth wide open.
Usually I’m no fiery vessel; usually I’m as unburning
As a stone-pile in dawn frost.
But you tear me from tongue-root to pubic-bone.
Lightning-rod, I spark and flare. Even my knees glow.
You want to speak all the time now, I not at all.
(Sonnet for a) Blue Devil
Noon, but you don’t fret about your shadow:
The Lord’s Day sky is wan and damp. Naturally,
I’m late—born that way (four days). At the window
Table, you tap your goat’s-foot. Unnaturally
Red, your goatee burns, a single flame.
A look of no surprise (What were you
Expecting? Horns? A pitchfork?), you’re the same:
Listening like a confessor. But this time through,
I sin. I omit jeering imps, and black-
Clad beadle, and—head-strapped, mallet in fist—
Coffin-maker, his burden on his back:
All your boys. Then, over eggs, you list
Your favorite snares—the tongue, the pen—for me:
I feel a chill where my soul used to be.
—James Scannell McCormick, Rochester, MN