Garden-variety Evil

The devil speaks in whispers.
His delivery is subtle, his game airtight.
After all, he has been doing this
for quite some time. No novice here.

His influence takes many forms:
isolation’s despondency,
discouragement’s weariness.
Self-doubt that mocks your bravest effort;
the crisis that questions survival.
Late nights of losing heart.

But mostly, the devil
prefers to make his approach
wearing a more mundane disguise—
perhaps posing as someone
you should have been able to trust,
someone you allowed into your life
when you saw his friendly face
at the door.

By turns, he wins your trust.
He learns the weave and form
of each delicate insecurity,
studying the intimate details
of your blackest fears
like a lover memorizes
the curve of a neck.

What makes you shake,
and what shames you,
whatever it is that you could
never face; the very thing
you would sooner choose death
than have to endure.

In his view, it makes sense:
if he is going to dismantle you,
he needs to know how you operate.
He mechanically notes your distress,
then turns away as he smiles,
so you cannot see him.

He counts on you forgetting
everything you thought you knew
about love and grace and hope,
gradually planting in your heart
a new miserable comprehension
of what you are worth.

He is the ultimate student.
Of course, having failed at his goal
to become the Ultimate Teacher,
he is cursed to sustain himself
with lesser accomplishments,
such as feeding on your failures.

He takes particular relish
in carefully cultivating the belief
that cripples you again and again:
that of your own irredeemability.

In that, you procure for him
the sweetest apple off the tree.
Doomed as he is, the offering
of your transient pain
will always be savored.

To him, you are nothing
more than delicious, vulnerable
entertainment.

Claire Juno, © 2017

Advertisements

Ode to Odes

Above the clouds
where there is no thinking,
no need for intellect
or dusty stacks
of books,

from this lofty space
these unneeded words fall,
contained in raindrops—

sometimes coming to us
as gentle showers for contemplation,
sometimes as stormy torrents
pelting the heart.

Drop by drop,
they bloat the dusty stacks
of books we have yet to read,
running in rivulets
down our Earth-bodies,
filtering through all memory
and experience, to the ground
beneath our conscious feet,

where, once embedded
in the sleeping soil of the ages,
they gradually ascend once again
like geese from the pond,
drifting back up, up

to that space above
the clouds, where there is
no thinking, no need for intellect
or dusty stacks of books
we keep meaning to read,
only joy and more joy,
wordless joy.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…dedicated to those above the clouds, on this Day of the Dead.

Melancholy’s Baby

I was a glimmering remnant,
a moon sliver she clung to
in the dark void.

I was all that remained
of her innocence and hope,
of her diaphanous love
seeping through the disrepair
of everything that mattered,
though in the end
it altered nothing—
a useless ether.

I was a bookmark,
a singular point
of goodness and perfection
along a fading timeline
well-worn and stained
with tears and wine.

Every investment in her
tenuous future
seemed to sit squarely
on my shoulders
as I marched—
some heroic ambassador
for her desperate country,
even as she secretly entertained
thoughts of self-exile.

Claire Juno, © 2012

 

…dedicated to my mother

Prehistory

I would like to suggest
a method of undoing this mess
that will rewind our errors
and erase every possible pain
we have caused each other.

First, I will give your watch back
and you, mine, to return the time
we took from each other,
moment by moment, for years.
It seems you took more from me
than I from you, judging by
the disparate sizes.

Nevertheless, we’ll call it even.

We can then backpedal
and somehow, from this
implacable position, move
forward in our evolution
as two distinctly separate
and wholly unrelated
species,

shifting from fossil
to relic to our vintage selves,
until at last we are amiable
babies playing on the floor,
and not arch enemies
possessing horrible secrets
about each other, drunk
with the dark power
this knowledge imparts.

We can pretend
that the sanguine birds
we once kept in a pedestal cage
were actually tiny dinosaurs
thirsting for blood and quietly
resenting their dish of seeds;
and the dragonfly that died
on the window ledge
was the world’s first biplane;
and we two, lone witnesses
to its epic crash.

Claire Juno, © 2017

Late Bloomer

You were late, though I hardly minded,
as distracting as it was to see you
press your way out of your green sheath
and uncoil those layers, deep pink,
even as an early autumn frost threatened
to nip at your slender tropical petals.

I realize your delayed appearance
has nothing to do with your desire
to bloom, nor your ability to captivate me,
along with the curious hummingbirds
and sparring cabbage moths.

No, I understand it took some time
to catch up after someone mowed you down
in his ignorance, leaving you stubby and broken,
reaching with shredded leaves to soak up
any sunlight you could claim, and
claw your way back toward the sky.

A broken beauty,
though nobody would know it,
to look at you.

Claire Juno, © 2014

Lost

The official letter
she had been holding
trailed to the floor
and she fumbled
with a bowl of aphids,
suddenly lacking her
usual appetite for them.

Feeling clumsy,
she set them free
by a windowsill.
The world outside
seemed unreal—
slow and dream-like.
“I must be in shock,”
she mumbled inaudibly.

The letter bore
the usual formalities
and some kind of fancy
seal that meant it was
from someone important,
someone who would
know what he knows,
and bears the responsibility
for conveying only
necessary information
and unfortunate facts.

“Ms. Ladybird,”
it began. “It is with our
sincerest sorrow that
we regret to inform you:
your house has completely
succumbed to fire, and
we were unable to locate
most of your children
in the blaze.”

The impersonal black
words on the white page
were burned into her mind’s eye.
Everything inside her railed
against the horror.

It continued.
“We were able to save
but one, who was hiding
at the time of the incident;
she will be in our custody
for the time being,
and you may retrieve her
at your earliest opportunity.
She is being attended by
our fine counselors and
receiving the utmost
professional attention
deemed helpful, as
she awaits your
return.”

“Ann! Ann!”
She cried aimlessly
into the summer air,
her eyes blurred by tears,
frantic and frozen
in her helplessness.

“We offer our
heartfelt condolences
for your terrible loss.
It is our duty at this time
to strongly urge you
to fly away home
at once, for the good
of your surviving child,
as well as for your own
welfare.”

In a daze,
she read the words
like a foreign language,
barely comprehending.

“Home…yes…home,”
she resolved, still shaken.

“But where is home?”

Claire Juno, © 2017

…inspired by the English nursery rhyme, “Ladybird, Ladybird”.
…dedicated to all who feel displaced in this world, whether by calamity or circumstance.

The Sun Will Still Rise
…a verse to my mother.

The sun will still rise
after you are gone,
with the noise of workday
traffic in the distance,
the drone of the masses
of the living, going about
their day, unaware of
your sudden absence.

The sun will still rise,
sending its indiscriminating
rays through my window
to this bereft new world,
blinding reminders
of the ambivalence
and continuance of things,
in spite of a loss that seems
to suggest, at least to me,
that everything else
should cease to exist,
in memoriam.

Just Doing My Job
...a verse in defense of the Sun.

I rose that morning
like any other,
only to find her glaring at me,
as though I had committed
some grave betrayal.

Why are you here,
she demanded to know,
and suddenly it dawned on me,
it was not that I had no reason
to be there, it was that
she could not face the day
I had brought to her.

Claire Juno, © 2015

What’s-his-name

You’re asking me
to do the impossible,
I pleaded with him
as he turned the key
in the lock of the heavy
door. And then I was alone.

Surveying the piles
that towered all around
my little stool, the smell
of straw overwhelmed me
and I cried.

But then I heard a strange
sound: the skipping of tiny feet
belonging to a horrid creature
with the twinkle of a deal
in his shrewd eyes.

Curious and more than a little
desperate, I dried my tears
on the hem of my skirt.

By the fading pink
of twilight, by the cold light
of a moon ray wafting through
the bars of a tiny window,
he worked night after night.
He worked for me, but
he did not work for free.

We exchanged fortunes,
my jewels for his miracles.
But after his third rescue
he struck a cruel bargain.

It took sleepless nights
of sleuthing and prayer,
but in the final hour
I was able to call him
by his real name
and let me tell you,
he hated it.

He returns sometimes
in my dreams, always
to claim my child,
and always with
his foot in my door,
hissing vile things at me
with a voice like death itself,

and every time,
with my baby cooing
in my arms, I firmly
refuse him, trembling
and fierce: Not me,
not my daughter.

His eyes smolder
with evil. Enraged
by my courage, he turns
positively senseless,
sputtering strange things
backwards, broiling with rage
over losing the deal and so much else
he was sure he could claim.

Not me, not my daughter.
I know your name.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…inspired by the fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin”.

A Leper’s Wisdom

There is so much I do not know,
for I did not live a life full of beauty.

Mine was something else,
but in spite of that, or perhaps
because of it, I know something
about faith, instead.

About the gift of simply
being here. About what can be
endured, survived.

About why the sun bothers
to rise over my humble terrace,
just as it ascends the gates of some
grand distant castle.

Quit trying to make perfect
an imperfect world—
propping up one thing after another
in desperation, when everything
is perpetually on its way
to the ground.

Dear one, great skeptic
of the inevitable, you are
duped by this futile notion
again and again.

Stop wasting time.

Claire Juno, © 2017

Strategy

Do you throw morsels
over your shoulder
when the wild dogs
are at your heels,
hoping the distraction
of your incomprehensible
generosity will give you
time to retreat to your
barren world once again?

From this place,
I throw up my hands
not in despair, but surrender.
I negotiate my own freedom
by finding what is still human
in the inhumane.

Quiet the beast,
and danger returns
to its slumber.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
who pave the muddy trenches
with ten thousand rose petals;
who see the fragility
of the monster,
and skillfully placate him
so that the vulnerable
can slip away unnoticed.

Is not all true kindness
without condition?

Some would say
I am the fool.
But the true fool
bites the throat
of kindness
and by doing so,
cuts himself off
from the only thing
that might save him.

Claire Juno, © 2014