02.27.2008

Satan After Hours (a poem by David Lerner, from the book The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry)

people think
Satan is a mythic beast
breathing doom and fire
laughing rapaciously as he
plucks your eyes out
a comic book ghoulie
with bad breath and a skin problem

Satan is a bus station

Satan is a cold fried egg
on a plastic plate
a cup of weak coffee beside it
while the telephone rings

Satan is the bland smile of
the cashier at the bank
when he tells you you’re overdrawn
or the glittering one
on the face of the angel in the blue dress
on the tv show
making you an offer you can’t believe
at terms you’re unable to resist

Satan is when you
run out of cigarettes and out of money
at the same time
when every part of your body hurts
and you’re only 36
when the miles you’ve logged
start showing up in the way
you laugh

in the way you count your change
when the whiskey bottle’s dry
Satan is the crackle of the police radio
just after they’ve put the cuffs on
as they laugh about the baseball game

the color of the walls
in a county hospital emergency room
the papers they make you sign
before they’ll give you medicine

the bad food you eat when you’re poor
a cough that won’t go away
the kind of hopes
that get pinned on a lottery

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