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The Salvation of Desire

Barry Dempster
From:   The Salvation of Desire. Toronto : St. Thomas Press, 2000

The famously crimson glow fills my living room,
a backdrop of red-pepper flames. Wall to wall,
crimson ribs, crimson rugs, the potted plants
smoking, Chagall prints bleeding, lamps like explosions
in miniature action films. How careless I look
in all this flicker, the Devil and I
exchanging handshakes like hunks of raw steak.

A palette apart from golden shimmers of goodness
where even spiders go down on their tiny knees.
Tonight, God sleeps somewhere secret, like a celebrity.
It's just me and the horned one, red and redder,
two roses rubbing up against each other's thorns.
You can smell the envy and lust in the air.
You can look into the sizzle of his eyes
and recognize the grimace on my shrunken face.

We argue for awhile, both of us completely wrong.
We throw ourselves into scalding pits of hate.
Have never felt this free before, flying
into fury and smashing all the shadows on the wall.
Stripped of everything but his steaming socks,
Devil does a lurid dance, the Chagall goats
falling from the sky half-roasted. I throw my head back,
swallowing a snake plant whole. Party hearty,
one of us shouts, bursting into a karaoke
version of The Hallelujah Chorus.

Imagine how I feel in the morning,
a field of poppies popping my eyeballs.
Tippy-toeing like a two-year old, I toddle
towards a trickle of sunlight, hoping
for an unconscious blessing. Hell, what a mess.
The rugs and lamps are still fuming, a pair of
underpants skewered on an aloe vera plant.
How do I make up for this? Unworthy, is all
I can manage to say, the tip of my tongue a blister.

The next time I see God, I'm going to wave harder
than all the other fans, make angel eyes at him,
maybe even toss him a flower, something white
like a suffering child's hand. Who knows,
maybe he'll hire me as a houseboy
to carry guests' coats or fetch pretty snacks
from his yellow kitchen.
Maybe I can even learn to turn the Devil down
before he whispers his inklings in my ear,
flee through those alluring clouds of smoke.

Barry Dempster's works copyright © to the author.

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