A quick swipe of fingernails --
digging vigorously, like dogs on the scent,
flaking skin from these legs, as if they could be sanded
to perfection, rosy and ruby-studded, from imperfect marble.
Blood erupts from volcanic scabs roused from dormancy
and collects in red rings above ankle-length socks
-- at least the carpet won't get stained.
"Leave it alone" sounds simple, but my body's not my own.
I inhabit, slave of impulse, a dog without a lampshade cuffed;
I am choking on my long leash.
scratching at an itch . . .
and when the urge comes again, it's impossible to resist, it's inconceivable to resist --
taking it in, sucking it down, shooting it up, shooting it out, letting it wash over you, seeking satisfaction and hiding in the flawless moment because it's easier than waiting for life
to brush against you like poison ivy, or alight upon you like a mosquito, or find a way into
your body like varicella zoster
this is easy . . .
easier than applying creams and third-rate folk remedies
easier than wondering if there's something under the skin that needs to be torn out
or if some missing key component could tie it all together
and make it work
the way it was supposed to
A lucid pause turns cloudy
and I crave clarity once more . . .
Looking down at bleeding scabs and welts that will not heal,
my hand prepares to sin again. I think to myself, just before it takes me:
there's so much more; this is only scratching the surface.
The Trials of Iphicles
There are no tales told of my battle
with that cunning green-eyed demon
who falls to no sword.
At eight months, the Fates spun and twined my course --
falling short of tragedy, my ill luck to be the normal
paired with the exceptional, the meek
tied to the strong,
inseparable in every way
except those I wanted.
Even if they intended no harm,
when scales raise one, the other
must be diminished, by rule.
Or is that not correct?
How not to hate when riddled by
errant arrows of praise, which
pierce one's best defenses, and
leach poison to the body, and the mind?
How not to drown when torrents of admiration for kin become cascades?
I insisted different was not inferior, but never believed it.
Cleaning stables by hand, at home, a short
unglamorous life, having one wife,
losing my own son's favor to his more exciting uncle.
His Trials mere tasks to be completed, my
scourge accosts daily, legendary appetite
unfilled. This is my measure of heroism -- to
suffer trials silently, with good humor and grace,
taking solace that one day Thanatos will come, and the looms tear away to freedom.
Peter Dabbene's poetry has been published in many online and print literary journals, and collected in the book Optimism. His stories can be found online at www.defenestrationmag.net, www.mcsweeneys.net, www.piginpoke.com, www.wordriot.org, and elsewhere, and his comic book work can be seen in the graphic novel Ark and the magazine Futurequake. He has published two story collections, Prime Movements and Glossolalia, and a novel, Mister Dreyfus' Demons. His latest book is the humor collection Spamming the Spammers (with Dieter P. Bieny). He writes a monthly column for the Hamilton Post (viewable at www.mercerspace.com/blog/pdabbene) and reviews for BlueInk Review and Forward Reviews. His plays have been performed in New Jersey and Philadelphia venues. His website is www.peterdabbene.com.