the beast

my beast comes in the afternoon
he gnaws at my gut
he paws my head
he growls
spits out part of me

my beast comes in the afternoon
while other people are taking pictures
while other people are at picnics
my beast comes in the afternoon
across a dirty kitchen floor
leering at me

while other people are employed at jobs
that stop their thinking
my beast allows me to think
about him,
about graveyards and dementia and fear
and stale flowers and decay
and the stink of ruined thunder.

my beast will not let me be
he comes to me in the afternoons
and gnaws and claws
and I tell him
as I double over, hands gripping my gut,
jesus, how will I ever explain you to
them? they think I am a coward
but they are the cowards because they refuse to
feel, their bravery is the bravery of

my beast is not interested in my unhappy
theory—he rips, chews, spits out
another piece of

I walk out the door and he follows me
down the street.
we pass the lovely laughing schoolgirls
the bakery trucks
and the sun opens and closes like an oyster
swallowing my beast for a moment
as I cross at a green light
pretending that I have escaped,
pretending that I need a loaf of bread or
a newspaper,
pretending that the beast is gone forever
and that the torn parts of me are
still there
under a blue shirt and green pants
as all the faces become walls
and all the walls become impossible.

[Charles Bukowski, WHAT MATTERS MOST IS HOW WELL YOU WALK THROUGH FIRE, HarperCollins Publishers, USA, 2002]


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