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April 4, 2023_The Poet and the Devil

by M.S.


the poet and the devil sat side by side

at the cliffs above the sea

with cold air between them


and the devil spoke saying:

if you complete my rhyme within the allotted time I

will end your pain, your poison, and your crime


the poet replied:

you must be of seer kin!

my pain is half blindness

my drink is half poison

and my crime is half payment


the devil said:

i do not lie—

your pain will become peace

your drink, an endless feast

your crime, to be forgotten

forgiven by the priest


the poet nodded:

you are a welcome prophet

and your words are indeed warming

but my blue seas have seen

black oracles swarming


the devil pressed:

yes, of one thing you are right

the ravens take up flight

but though men see omens

i alone give men sight


the poet conceded:

your words feel like billows

raging against the cliffs!

but billows are pillows

for a poet like me


and the devil said with glee:

good! then let us now settle

your measure of mettle

do bend without breaking

the form of my petal:


Who swims in the waves

when sailors are drowning

and waves to the fishes

when fishes are counting?


the poet responded:

i know i cannot settle

the full measure of my mettle

for i am full of drink

and my mouth is full of wool

but though i am a fool

for sinking to this level

i know that you speak

of yourself, you Devil!


And the poet grasped the thing

there on that muddy ledge

and with his drunken strength

he pushed it from the edge


but through the devil’s falling eyes

his prophesy came true

for as it slipped away

the poet followed too


yes, in his rhythmic stupor

the bard was bound to rhyme

and what he did to Satan

was done to him in time


so now he is released

at peace in that deep feast

the poet thanks the priest

the sea holds one more beast


and the poet and the devil swim side by side

at the cliffs below the sea

with no air between them


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