Hideless Tigress

Give this flesh power to taste joy[.]
          —Donne1

                    i.

Stone-hearted lover, I worship
like an idol, to leave the past
where it belongs I need to be
moved, the way an oracle speaks
only when spoken to, in fleet
pursuit of song the Muse who seeks
me subdues this pain with such strength
nothing anyone else can say

can ever hope to allay its
pangs any better than her breath
does, taking less time than others’
words to make less burdensome this
hurt, what first visited me as
inspiration stills the clang of
the empty pail, deafens even
death’s fatalist knell, quells fear, gilds

lips, fills not with mere gold but god’s
indefatigable unseen
energy (which is her warmest
eternal exuberance) this
dullest sublunary vastness,
whose painted echo manifests
as pure laughter which cannot be
dismissed or help but touch, with what

cannot be felt, hearts hardened by
being heard and never truly
seen, to hear and feel but not see
nearly so clearly its unkempt,
necessary obscenity’s
origin, my poetry will
now use me up for your pleasure
gladly, the devouring glow of

a glowering growl in her hand,
pulsing light filling it softly,
taking testimony only
from the damned, one gargantuan
demand after gargantuan
demand weighting her down, I am
Chiron racing against hell’s lone
ferryman toward the snowy

                    ii.

constellations, outpacing old
Charon I go forward bearded
with world-weariness which hangs like
a thorn-torn lace of scars from my
bedraggled embattled face, an
embittered veteran of far
too many inland wars, I am
a soldier she no longer longs

for, exiled by ill-fortune to
a worse empire, sore wanderer
rendered poor foreigner in my
former home, incrœdipal and
Odyssean, I carry with
me everywhere my blindest
passion has taken me, burning
with a furious envy for

those without so many stories
to hold in silence, no longer
smiling, a grimacing burden
of spent matches reeking still of
sulphur long after lust’s absence
haunts me without any pity,
deepening the dark pull of this
empty throat enemy loads have

filled, defiled before pulling out
tongues swollen enough with thoughts of
unholy language others might
well consider privileged, worth
it, this damage painless, if such
a wealth of experience can
somehow lend itself to being
translated as knowledge, a shared

heritage stripped of innocence
she readily tires of, as my
hideless tigress tries my patience
with heaviest caresses whose
rawest scratches rob my flesh of
ecstasy, deny its progress
from enervating desire to
breathless energy, making an

                    iii.

animal of me and of an
itch an insatiable impulse
to ditch love in favour of the
gutter, where everything that
can exists to be had by those
whose temptations are in direct
proportion to their misery’s
persistence and impossible

to resist, I have long since been
one of them, miserable dog
hounded relentlessly by the
louche indecisiveness of such
a ravenous kitten, smitten
by her unkindness, every
law of my resolve unwritten
by a vixen who still cannot

decide if what she wants is for
me to write, or be imprisoned
by her crippling pretensions to
some innocence I will never
again find, not unless I give
in to a different kind of
craving, this hunger of my heart
eating itself out of me from

inside, I am the smouldering
immolation her emboldened
imitation of Christ ignites
every wasted sleepless night
I deny my embrace, muddied
fingers tracing in ashes tears
turn to ink the names of former
flames for whom my passion has died,

left denied it flickers until,
reduced to a hushed whisper, the
secret of this addiction of
mine perishes, vanishes much
quicker than any seduction
ever suffices to turn me
onto hurting my Self this way
in the first place, spurns worthlessness,

          burns away all its evidence.

__________
1John Donne, “Satyre III”, [Line 42], in “Satires” of Donne: Poems and Prose[: Selected by Peter Washington], published at New York by Everyman’s Library in 1995; page 94.