- The Reward of Cruelty
Had we the odor of summer, of the gazillion pine-needle dresses Jiggling from the boughs, when the Hogarth, tacked above the register, lured us in Among the bookshelves, the golden motes of dust? Um, well, no— Though we’d made it in the park, in some out-of-bounds shadows, and would find, Later that evening, a peppering of aphids in your hair. We stared At the Hogarth. The reward of cruelty. Nero on the dissection table, his intestines Slopped into a pail. Still, it didn’t seem as dark as this, in person— What with Mingus on the stereo, the sienna light of late afternoon, of a childhood Among hay bales and languid figures—didn’t it seem, in person, Tranquil, like a dish of cream? You reached for Nero, leaning against the counter, Revealing the pale bell of your hips, while I trudged, in my head, Down the sun-baked trails of Sausalito, where your grandmother lived, and where, Months before, in the rip-gut brome, I’d found a raccoon’s skull, As pale as a breast. But back to you, dear, reaching for Nero, for the gaping mouth, So that I may recall myself, beneath you, in the wardrobe mirror— My own stupid, gaping mouth against your pillows. Then you looked back at me Over your shoulder, like a doe in amber mist, liable to leap away At the slightest movement. Could you even appreciate how silent my silence was, How I stood there as still as a prisoner, as a glass of water, while You examined me—the insides of me, it seemed— the white mutt, in the Hogarth, Lowering its jowls, all this time, round Nero’s heart on the floor? [End Page 6]
Jaydn DeWald, a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program, lives with his wife in San Francisco, where he writes, plays bass for the DeWald/Taylor Quintet, and serves as senior poetry editor for Silk Road. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, Columbia Poetry Review, Drunken Boat, the National Poetry Review, West Branch, Witness, and others.