the devil is dead, and so it goes

Once, in that long ago and far away of being eleven or twelve,

I had, as was my wont (being blessed with the twin gifts

Of curiosity and time), picked up a book my father

Had left open and began to read. The story was a curious one, indeed:

Two men, a stoic and monosyllabic knight and a world-weary bishop,

(Drunk with fear, wine or likely both) were on a quest to kill the devil.

The tale sped along until the point where the pair succeeded in their mission,

Complete with an illustration showing a huge and hairy horned beast

Sprawled across some vaguely alpine mountainscape

Bleeding profusely from a great slash in his throat.

Strangely, the book did not end there; there were several pages

Detailing the eviction of impoverished families

From their equally forlorn hovels, the deflowering

And subsequent murder of a young girl in a wretched slum,

The machinations of a king (indeed, the very monarch

Who had dispatched the knight and bishop

To undertake the ostensible suicide mission

Which had succeeded so spectacularly, if implausibly)

To launch an undeclared war on a peaceful and unsuspecting neighbor.

 

After carefully replacing the bookmark,

I went to find my father; he was at the kitchen table,

Grading papers or paying bills or caught in some other minutiae

Of the workaday world. I stood their, hands on hips,

Until such time his attention wandered my way,

At which point I waved the book at him stammering

That can’t be. They killed the devil,

But bad stuff just kept happening. That doesn’t make any sense.

My father sat in silence for a moment,

And, pushing up his glasses, said quietly

Men, even our demons, they die easily enough

But ideas, a legacy…

And with that he returned to the papers in front of him.

I stood there for a few moments, before I tromped away,

Grumbling to myself about how he’d been no help at all

 

That child has long since flown,

Carried off by a universe indifferent to youth

As it is to so many other things,

So many comings and goings deserved and unwarranted

(My own father gone some scant months

After that kitchen conversation; while out

For milk and ice cream, his interest

As to what extent April had brought the Kinzua Creek

Out of its banks led him on an unusual route home.

He likely never saw the drunk– taking a back road

To avoid the sheriff’s deputies– barreling too wide

Around a sharp corner), so many instances

Of wars to end all wars

Of one more edition of peace in our time,

All the while pairing our lives off

In the unlikeliest of couples:

Pestilence and porch swings, famines and festivals

Massacres and marigolds, and all the while

We roll on, roll on.

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11 thoughts on “the devil is dead, and so it goes

  1. wicked write…what a moment of youth having your eyes peeled back to reality…and then of course living it since…roll on it does…and still we only offer the same answers…

  2. And with the read you lost your innocence and the trauma was only heightened when you lost your dad. I mourn both events for you and have trouble knowing which loss is the worst for both are horrible and nothing is ever the same again. Your poem resonates particularly against the backdrop of Claudia’s and Hedgewitch’s today in that they speak of the loss of innocence in other ways – abuse, slavery. Wonderful, terrible, great work. Thank you – Gay

  3. How fascinating! You tell a strong story because throughout I wanted to know what would happen next. It’s a shock to learn of the death of the father. But a very satisfactory, stoical ending. Great stuff.

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