The Underworld


Don’t fucking look at me. I’m not here for you,

hobble-scotched, limping through the house,

child crying, always a child crying, in the background.

Even this daft dog, barking. I’m lonely

and nobody listens. Listen. Listen, I said.

Then I stopped saying. I recessed. I grabbed

two sheaves of dry hair and pretended

to be a witch. I pretended to be the CEO

of a drug company selling the public

contin-coated morphine. Just take an 80mg pill.

Just take a 160. I pretended I was a queen

waiting to be beheaded by an impotent king

who couldn’t even show his face at the trial,

who hid away with his new young lover.

Had I fucked my own brother? In the pretend,

I couldn’t say, though I knew each stone

in the tower wall. I pretended I could raise

the dead. Who first? My friend, the addict.

My ex, the addict. My grandfather, the addict.

Go back down, down. Enter the underworld

on a leaky elevator, and who is there waiting?

Nothing. Nothing. Be numb. Benumbed, I did

not raise myself. I am no redheaded Plath,

gobbling men like hot oxygen, though I want

to be. I’m not scribbling limericks, trying to rhyme

dildo with mildew or tulip with cunt.

In the thirteenth month of the pandemic

I pressed my children to my breast, though I’m no

wolf come to nurse them. I’m no queen

of the underworld, either, though I too

long to disappear in winter, to go down

with the stones and secret rivers. I’m not a fluorescent

light or a light chime to signify nullification.

Be blank. Absent. Nothing. I’m not the dominatrix.

I’m not the lover. I’m not mooney Eurydice,

but if I was I’d say my Orpheus swung and swung.

He went down first. Gird the underworld

with tulips (with cunts). Gird it with crabapple blossoms

and a child who won’t listen to me. When I am nothing

I will lie on the ground, eyes closed, and let

my grief fall from my feet like lead. As we were dead

and no one bothered to come. As I raised them,

then put them back, and said Don’t move a muscle.

Stay put. Don’t turn your head. You’re dead.

You’ve always been dead. You’re a hole in a rotten

man’s head; a band of ligatures at his neck.

You’re a tailpipe so hot it burns a brain right out.

You’re the stars turned off. You’re dead. Stay dead.

Copyright © 1999 – 2023 Juked