The visitors all come bearing selfishness,
but only Sorrow wears it royal
in the open like a robe.
He hunkers under the heavy cloak
saying it keeps out the cold,
and makes apologies—apologies for all the mud
it drags across my well-swept floors
and the jabbing pins within
that hold him together.
Oh, but he must, he must wear it,
and all is borne.
I set my hands out in a bowl, and we both bow.
The cloak is shed, the pins replaced
with thread, the floors are cleaned,
and the visitor sent on his way.
“Come again when you must.”
Rage is easier to greet,
but rarely receives entrance,
drunk as he comes
tilting into precious, porcelain peaces.
The door is bolted against him, so he hammers
ceaselessly throughout the day and night.
And since I have not learned his name,
I cannot sober him with reason
or soothe him with song.
“Water, water,” he cries,
and I give him wine in the shadows.
His furnace needs a river. But no,
that could rip the whole structure from its roots.
So I let him spew his flames on the threshold,
and those who mind the house wonder
at the flickering in the windows,
the bubbling and peeling of the walls,
and I tell them all is well, all is well,
as smoke billows beneath the door.
I sit frog-like and boiling, beside
the only one who made my halls his home.
Looming mass of muscle—I have fed him well.
I ask if I should let his brother in.
“No,” he whispers, as he ever does.
All visitors abide against his will.
It is he who cleans the floors,
and paints the walls, and pours the wine.
He who draws Rage in, and he who bars the door.
He who fills the room to bursting,
suffocating any who would stay.
But now wood splinters, heat spills through the cracks,
and he shambles toward the basement door.
Tomorrow will find him unburnt,
fingers coiled like silk-tongued snakes
around my ankles in the ashes.
– s. Clark