I had a life before you, of course,
but let’s not pretend it had meaning,
nor suggest it possessed purpose.
Decades marred by sin and shame,
empty achievements, ambitious failures;
these are the tools that carve the hearts
out of hopeful youth, and forge the mold
from which hollow men are made.
Long years I stared at walls
adorned by portraits, locking gazes
with doleful eyes of canvassed
strangers hinting at feasts destined
never to be tasted, or a place akin
to heaven, out of reach for one so fallen.
Memories of sordid gestures, teased
from carpets patterned with ash
and stale rings of tumblers knocked
by frenzied limbs, cigarettes dropped
in abandon by fingers slick
with urgency, reaching for the chalice
of the moment; carrion for starving,
heartless hollow men to recall images
of triumphs and victories, of captured
creatures, equally empty, roaming
the nights or the daydreams between,
finding each other and feeding.
But what nourishment to be found
in such souls devoid of love,
filled only with a lust, a desire
of the most voracious kind,
with scarce a hope of satisfaction?
These are the stories of huntsmen,
of predators and prey alike,
the line between them blurred
by their all-too-similar needs,
reduced to closing the door
behind trophies, as each catch
slips quietly away after such
feigned, desperate struggles.
This is how you found me,
forsaken by my misdeeds, waiting
in a lair, listening to the ticking,
the clunk of each second, sensing,
perhaps, your scent on the air,
somewhere beyond fate’s horizon.
And there you stood, framed
like a portrait in my doorway,
a doe trapped in headlights,
sensing no danger, seeing only
a promise of wonders untold,
of something akin to heaven.
And this is how I found you,
frozen at the threshold of my domain,
its walls festooned with imagined kills,
their beauty crowned in pewter.
Yet there you were, and I stared,
words caught in my hollow heart
as your eyes shone, your head
against your picture frame, tilted
as a child hearing a fairy tale.
And suddenly my hollow world
caved in, attacked by light
and laughter and – yes – by lust,
and it hurt, but I knew that here
was a seed, a new beginning,
without sin or shame; on wings
invisible my angel arrived
to carry me back to her heaven.
It was easy to bring me here,
do you recall? And look now,
how easy it is to erase me
from these heights; my light dimmed,
allowing you to see me as I truly am,
to tear me from your heart, your sight,
and banish me back to oblivion.
So now I return to the hollow land,
where beasts tread the night, lying
in darkened corners, awaiting the lame,
the unwary or the tame,
to ensnare when they venture too near.
I had a life before this, yet how brief
a life it was. And let’s not say
it was empty, that the laughter
and light and – yes – the love,
were anything other than real;
let’s not pretend it was hollow,
nor suggest, at the end, it meant
nothing, for after all it was you
who in shallow waters caught me,
and taught me how to feel.
Copyright © 2015, 2018 Scott Kaelen
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